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Preface ix 















When Chintaman and I were married, in 1953 many friends 
and relations remarked on the difference in our habits and ways 
of life. They compared the blunt and outspoken Durgabai with 
the suave and ‘■westernised’ C.D. Deshmukh. How, they 
wondered, would 1, who had no social graces nor cared for them, 
get along with Chintaman, who was the very embodiment of 
style and grace. 

I still remember how O.P. Mathai, Private Secretary to Prime 
Minister Nehru at the time, was quite taken aback at the news of 
our coming marriage and said: “Now let us see who is going to 
change whom!” Although this remark was made in a light- 
hearted manner, it struck a note that was to be echoed by many 
others. My mother was happy, but worried all the same lest our 
different backgrounds should lead to conflict because of lack of 
harmony in our outlooks. A very old friend from my days in the 
Law College, P.L. Harnis, at the time a senior official in the 
Finance Ministry where C.D. Deshmukh was the Minister, came 
running to me and exclaimed, “What a fool you are, you with 
your brashness and he with his refined taste!” 

Such, in fact, was the concern of friends and relations alike 
that l even spoke of it to Chintaman. I told him that I was 
almost a rustic, not in the least a socialite, and that I did not 
even know how to wear fashionable footwear or go to those 
parties in the evenings; did he still want to marry me? 



Chintaman took me to an eucalyptus tree in his garden and 
inscribed two Sanskrit slokas on its bark: it was a proposal of 
marriage. I accepted, and he kissed me. 

The roots of my mental evolution as also my husband’s are to 
be traced to the early decades of this century. Chintaman was 
born in 1896 in an orthodox Kayastha family of Maharashtra 
and had a brilliant academic career in school, college, and 
university (Bombay and Cambridge), shattering records at 
almost every step, and rounded it off by entering the Indian Civil 
Service in 1919 - again securing the first position and breaking 
all records except one in this prestigious examination. 

With quiet competence and smooth efficiency he dealt with 
various types of work. Revenue settlements, secretaryship to the 
Round Table Conference in London on constitutional reforms 
for India, and debates in Legislative Assemblies came his way 
a nd were handled with a sure touch that won him the unqualified 
praise of the British I.C.S. Establishment. He held those very 
administrative posts that had been the exclusive preserve of the 
British, and excelled. By the ’thirties he was being sought by the 
Education and Finance Departments of the Government of 
India, but the provincial Government of the Central Provinces 
and Berar was firm in its refusal to release him on deputation. 

The story of Chintaman Deshmukh’s 26 years in the I.C.S. in 
British India might almost have come from the pen of a 
nationalist of the moderate Congress school who wanted to 
show the British that Indians were as fit for holding high 
executive posts as any Englishman, in order to invalidate the 
British argument for keeping Indians out of higher 
administrative positions, namely that the Englishman was by his 
inborn force of character, initiative and energy possessed of 
qualities which Indians lacked. He was appointed as the first 
Indian Governor of the Reserve Bank of India in 1943 and was 
later knighted. 

In 1950 Chintaman Deshmukh became the third Finance 
Minister of free India, and by 1951, when I first met him, had 



succeeded in winning the full confidence and respect of Pandit 
Jawaharlal Nehru, his Cabinet colleagues, and of the Congress 
party in general. That this could happen is a tribute as much to 
Chintaman as to Panditji and his colleagues who had the large- 
heartedness to recognise, and value, character and ability. 

it is not widely known that Chintaman, though assured of a 
rewarding career in the I.C.S., had been sufficiently influenced 
by the independence movement to wonder whether duty 
required him to participate in the political struggle. He had the 
opportunity of consulting Bal Gangadhar Tilak on this question 
when the Lokmany a visited London towards the close of 1919. 
When Chintaman called on Tilak and expressed his doubt, the 
nationalist leader told him: “Our struggle for independence is 
sooner or later bound to succeed and then we shall need a lot of 
qualified young Indians to hold responsible posts. Since you 
have already qualified well for holding high administrative office, 
nothing is likely to be gained by your playing a part in the 
political struggle. After the struggle is over, the country will need 
good administrators.” It would appear in retrospect as if it was 
destined that Chintaman should constitute a bridge between the 
nd of British rule and the beginning of Indian independence. 

Chintaman served India before independence in his way, and 
I had tried to serve the country and society in another way. It 
will, I hope, be evident to readers from the ensuing narration 
how Chintaman and I should have found a kindred soul in each 
other, notwithstanding the obvious differences. 

/. Kakinada : The Formative Years 

When I was young, the social conditions in India were 
feudalistic. Child marriages were in great vogue. And I myself 
was a victim of this primitive social custom. 

I was born on 15 July 1909 at Rajahmundry in the coastal 
district of East Godavari in Andhra. My father, B.V.N. Rama 
Rao of Kakinada, was a social worker, although in service; he 
always responded to people in need. Plague and cholera were 
prevalent those days. He was not afraid of helping those 
suffering from these dreaded diseases. He must have attended to 
hundreds of such victims. He used to take me with him on many 
of these occasions. Few would volunteer to carry the bodies of 
those who had died of plague or cholera, and ambulances were 
unknown. My father, along with three of his friends, used to be 
the pall-bearer. Though the streets of Kakinada were deserted, 
my father would take my mother and the two children — I had a 
younger brother, Narayana Rao — to the church, the mosque, or 
the burning ghat to show us how the bodies were disposed of, 
perhaps with a view to making us courageous enough to face the 
inevitable event of death. 

The only mistake my father had committed was to marry me 
off when I was eight years of age, to an adopted son of a 
zamindar who had estates yielding, a large income. Later my 
father had regretted this. He died in 1929 at the early age of 
thirty-six. The words he spoke to my mpufrer, Krishnavenamma, 



before he breathed his last, were that he had ruined his 
daughter’s life by marrying her at an early age, and that my 
mother should give her consent if and when I wanted to marry 
someone else. 

When I grew up to the age of fifteen I realised the significance 
of marriage. I told my father that I could not treat the man to 
whom I had been married as husband. I also told him that I 
would tell Subba Rao (that was his name) that I could not 
accept him as husband, and that I would be prepared to give him 
in writing to that effect. I also told him that he could marry any 
girl he liked. This was before the marriage was consummated. 

In fairness, I must say that Subba Rao was a decent and 
liberal man. He understood my point. After a couple of years his 
elders pressed him to marry again, especially because he himself 
was an adopted son and there had been no children in the family 
for three generations. They wanted me to give a letter to the ef- 
fect that I would not object to his marrying another girl. This 
was understandable as no parents would like to give in marriage 
their daughter as a second bride. Finally he married Thim- 
maiamma, the daughter of a lawyer. They had a son, but the 
boy died young. Before Subba Rao passed away in the year 
1941, he seemed to have told his wife that she should go to me 
and live under my protection as he had feared that her brothers 
would misappropriate the property that she inherited. She came 
to me inside of one year of her husband’s death. I got her trained 
in the industrial section of Andhra Mahila Sabha. She is still 
with me, earning three hundred rupees a month as a teacher at 
the Regional Handicrafts Institute in Hyderabad. She is leading 
a happy and contented life. 

Social inequity in those days was so bad that the Devadasi 
system was prevalent and was encouraged by the rich elite, with 
the tacit approval of the government. A Devadasi was a woman 
who was dedicated to the Lord of a temple and remained unmar- 
ried, but discretely utilised by the well-to-do for sensual in- 
dulgence. It was considered a status symbol to engage 



Devadasis at marriages to dance in the streets in front of the 
palanquin carrying the bride and the bridegroom- Though I 
was very young, I considered this a reprehensible custom. The 
Devadasi system originated in the rendering of dances before the 
shrine by skilled performers; in return they were allotted some 
lands for maintenance, and it was also a condition that they re- 
main unmarried. 

Gandhiji was to visit Kakinada on 2 April 1921. I was twelve 
years old. I wanted the Devadasis as well as the Muslim women 
who were observing the feudal custom of burqa to meet 
Gandhiji. I believed that if they met Gandhiji they would change 
their ways of life and social customs. 

I went round to the Devadasis and talked about the greatness 
of Gandhiji and his fight for the dignity and the rights of Indians 
in South Africa. They showed interest, and wanted me to 
arrange for them to meet Gandhiji. 

This was a big challenge for me. The local hosts whom I 
requested to spare Gandhiji for at least ten minutes to address a 
gathering exclusively of women, told me that they would do it if 
I collected five thousand rupees for a purse to be presented to 
the Mahatma. I felt that they said this in a lighter vein, thinking 
that I would not be able to raise such a big amount. 

I told my Devadasi friends of the condition. They assured me 
that they would collect the money and wanted me to meet them 
every day and enlighten them about Gandhiji’s work for the 
freedom of the country. I did this, and also sang some patriotic 
songs about Gandhiji. In less than a week they collected the 

Another problem was the place for the meeting. It was not 
easy during the British Raj to secure a place where Gandhiji 
could address a large gathering. The hosts did not help me in 
this regard, but wanted the money for the purse to be presented 
at the Town Hall where Gandhiji was to address a public 
meeting. I was determined to find a place for the women’s 
meeting, since the Devadasis and the Muslim women would not 



join the public meeting. I refused to give the leaders the money I 
had collected. 

I approached my Headmaster, Siviah Sastry Garu, to allow 
us to hold the meeting in the school compound which was very 
large and had beautiful flowering trees. I told him that if he 
allowed the meeting to be held there, he might be arrested. Those 
were the days when people were afraid of even giving a glass of 
water to people who worked for Gandhiji. But my Headmaster 
was a patriotic man. He said that he was not afraid of the 
consequences and that if he was arrested for the noble cause he 
would gladly go to jail. He further said that when a young girl 
like me worked for Gandhiji, an elderly man should not be 
afraid. I went ahead with preparations for the meeting. 

The next problem was that the hosts would not agree to spare 
Gandhiji for more than five minutes. I said even two minutes 
would do. Finally I succeeded in making them agree. Since our 
Girls’ School was on the way from the railway station to the 
Town Hall, they brought Gandhiji there first. More than one 
thousand women were waiting for his darshan I made one of 
the elderly women present the purse. They touched Gandhiji’s 
feet and felt so inspired that even before he started to address 
them they gave the jewels, bangles, necklaces, gold chains, and 
whatever they had on their person as additional offerings for his 
cause. I was told by Sri Tenneti Viswanatham later in the day 
that the total value of the offerings to Gandhiji at our meeting, 
including the purse, was twenty-five thousand rupees. 

Gandhiji started to address them. Five minutes passed, ten 
minutes passed, half an hour passed, and still he went on 
speaking. I translated his speech from Hindustani into Telugu. 
The half-a-dozen hosts who were with him to take him to the 
Town Hall were very angry with me. I told them that it was not 
my fault, and that they could ask Gandhiji to conclude his 
speech, but they dared not. 

Gandhiji said at the meeting that it was this kind of gathering 
that he liked to address, as he considered the abolition of the 



Devadasi system and reform among Muslim women were 
among the best constructive programmes for the emancipation 
of women. We all went to see Gandhiji off at our school gate. 
When I was bidding farewell to him, he said, “Durga, get into 
my car.” I secured a seat next to Kasturba Gandhi. There was 
also Prabhavatibehn (Jayaprakash Narayan’s wife), who was 
with Gandhiji those days. 

We went to the Town Hall. Sri Konda Venkatappaiah started 
to translate Gandhiji’s speech from Hindustani into Telugu, but 
Gandhiji said, “Venkatappaiah, let Durga translate my speech. 
She did it very well at the earlier meeting.” Then I translated 
Gandhiji’s speech and he was pleased with my effort. Since then 
I was his translator whenever he visited the South, not only in 
Andhra but also in Madras (though I could only speak a 
smattering of Tamil). 

Following Gandhiji’s visit a change came about among the 
Devadasis, who started to get their daughters married to boys 
who were bold enough to face the social censure. Later, in 1937, 
when the dyarchical form of government was established in In- 
dia and a government was formed in Madras with C. Ra- 
jagopalachari as Prime Minister (before independence they were 
so designated). Dr. Muthulaxmi Reddy was nominated as a 
member of the Legislative Council. I met Dr. Muthulaxmi Red- 
dy and told her how Gandhiji’s speech had inspired the 
Devadasis of Kakinada to reform their lives, and suggested that 
she should sponsor legislation in the Council for the abolition of 
the Devadasi system. She succeeded in bringing this about. 

About the time of Gandhiji’s visit in 1921, my mother, 
brother, and I had decided to wear only hand-spun and hand- 
woven Khadi. I made a bonfire of my mill-made clothes. I quit 
my school because English was being taught there. In the 
following year I founded the Balika Hindi Pathasala, about 
which more shortly 

Our house in Kakinada was very spacious with some out- 
houses. I saw the tenant of one of the outhouses beating his wife 



regularly for no fault of hers. I found this to happen in several 
houses in the neighbourhood. The men were educated, but that 
did not help them to respect their wives and to treat them as 
equal partners in life. I gathered about twenty girls of my age (I 
was then fifteen) and took out a procession in the streets, 
shouting slogans for the boycott of people who beat their wives 
and appealing to the employers to dismiss from their service 
those who beat their wives. In some cases we succeeded in bring- 
ing about a change, but most of the husbands did not change 
their ways. The women were treated merely as bed-mates for 
satisfying the biological needs of men. We persuaded some such 
women to go to their fathers’ place for some time. There were 
no institutions that could give them the protection which they so 
badly needed. I knew a few cases of cruelly treated wives com- 
mitting suicide. 

There was also at the time a cruel and barbarous custom of 
getting the woman’s head shaved on the death of the husband, 
besides the giving up of bangles, mangalasutra , and kumkum. 
The underlying idea was perhaps to make them look ugly and 
unacceptable to men. Even young women who were in their 
teens were subjected to this brutal custom. It nearly happened in 
my mother’s case. She was quite young when my father died. 
The relations and the kith and kin who came to offer their con- 
dolences to my mother insisted that her head be shaved. I 
protested against this and told them that if they persisted in their 
demand they had better get out of the house. My mother had 
lovely, long hair. She was good-looking. I requested her to resist 
the demand, and finally she did not yield to the pressure. Since 
then I found her example being emulated in several families in 
the neighbourhood. 

In 1923 the annual session of the Indian National Congress 
was to be held in Kakinada. Gandhiji had by then established 
the Dakshina Bharata Hindi Prachar Sabha, with Madras as its 
headquarters, to popularise Hindi in South India, and the first 
session of the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan was to be held in 



Kakinada alongside of the Congress session. The office of the 
Dakshina Bharata Hindi Prachar Sabha was temporarily moved 
to Kakinada and Pandit Hrishikesh Sharma and his wife, 
Sharada Devi, were in charge of the office. This gave me an 
opportunity for learning Hindi systematically, and also for 
learning national songs in Hindi. 

While learning Hindi I started to teach it, too. There was a 
need for recruiting and training several hundred women to work 
as volunteers for both the Congress session and the Hindi 
Sammelan, besides working at the Khadi exhibition which was 
being organised for the occasion. There was at the time in 
Kakinada practically no one who learned Hindi. Therefore, the 
classes which I started with the help and encouragement given 
by my father and mother, who allowed me to use a couple of 
rooms in our own house, attracted hundreds of women. The 
number grew with every passing day. This was the beginning of 
the Balika Hindi Pathasala. 

There were six months left for the Congress session to be 
held. With the help of Dinavahi Satyanarayana, who had been 
my teacher, I was able to teach Hindi to about 400 women 
during this period, and most of them were recruited as 
volunteers for the Congress session. But I was rejected because 
of my young age - 1 was only fourteen. Though some twenty of 
us had been rejected because of our young age, we were 
accepted as volunteers for the Hindi Sammelan. This re-kindled 
our waning enthusiasm. 

I worked as a volunteer at the Exhibition Grounds also. It 
was here that I had the first opportunity of meeting Pandit 
Jawaharlal Nehru. We had been given strict instructions by our 
commanders not to allow anyone inside of the Exhibition Hall 
without a ticket. Jawaharlal Nehru came to the Exhibition 
Grounds and wanted to go in; but he had neither a ticket nor the 
required two annas to buy one. I politely told him that he could 
not go in without a ticket. The organisers who saw this came to 
me and twisted my ears and asked me whether I knew who I 



was turning out. I replied that I knew it was Jawaharlal Nehru 
but that I was only following my instructions and doing my 
duty. Then they bought a ticket for Nehru. When Panditji saw 
them scolding me, he told them that I had done nothing wrong, 
that I was only doing my duty, and that the country required 
such girls who could discharge their duties with courage and 

The accommodation provided by my father proved too small 
to the growing number of women who came to join the Balika 
Hindi Pathasala. The Pathasala had therefore to be shifted to a 
bigger house offered by a philanthropic family. The activities in- 
cluded classes not only in Hindi but also in spinning on the 
charkha. A few handlooms were gradually installed for weaving 
cloth out of the yarn spun at the Pathasala. In addition, the 
women and the girls were taught patriotic songs in Hindi. 

The Andhra leaders found that by this time there were two 
national institutions in Kakinada - the Jatiya Kala Sala and the 
Balika Hindi Pathasala - that satisfied the conditions laid down 
by Gandhiji. Among those who visited the Balika Hindi 
Pathasala were Chittaranjan Das, Kasturba Gandhi, Maulana 
Shaukat Ali, Jamnalal Bajaj, and C.F. Andrews. 

When Sri Jamnalal Bajaj found at the Balika Hindi Pathasala 
a few hundred women learning Hindi, spinning on the charkha, 
weaving cloth, and singing national songs, he wanted to know 
who the head of the institution was. Bulusu Sambamurti, who 
accompanied him, introduced me as the principal and head of 
the institution. As I was a young girl in my early teens, he could 
not at first believe this. But when he did bring himself to do so, 
he asked me whether he could offer some money to help me run 
the school. I told him politely that I did not require money at the 
time and that if and when I did, I myself would ask him. I met 
Sri Jamnalal Bajaj next at the Karachi Congress session in 
1931. He was not only gracious enough to recognise me, 
although I had grown eight years older since he saw me as a girl 
at Kakinada, but was also kind enough to enquire about the 



progress of the Balika Hindi Pathasala and to repeat the offer of 
financial assistance. I repeated my earlier reply. 

My visit to the Karachi Congress session was after my release 
from Vellore jail in 1930. I had been sentenced for one year in 
the Salt Satyagraha movement and during my absence the work 
of the Balika Hindi Pathasala was carried on by my mother. She 
was assisted by her younger brother, Madava Rao. The Balika 
Hindi Pathasala did not stop its work with the Kakinada session 
of the Congress but grew stronger and stronger and moved to 
yet another bigger house almost every year as the number of 
students was increasing fast. When the Dakshina Bharata Hindi 
Prachar Sabha at Madras started to conduct regular exami- 
nations in Hindi - Prathamik, Madhyama, Rashtrabhasha, and 
Visarad — under the supervision of Moturi Satyanarayana, the 
Balika Hindi Pathasala started regular courses to prepare stu- 
dents for those examinations. Every year forty to fifty women 
appeared for the various examinations and they all did well, 
some of them passing in the first and the second divisions. 

The Balika Hindi Pathasala moved to its own building, 
consisting of two big halls and four large rooms, when a house 
was purchased by a close relation of mine, G.V. Subba Rao, and 
placed at my disposal to house the Pathasala. With the additions 
and alterations, the cost of the building came to about one lakh 
rupees. I feel ever grateful to him for this act of benevolence. 

My mother soon acquired sufficient knowledge in Hindi to 
appear for the first two examinations. The people of Kakinada 
were greatly appreciative of what was being done at the 
Pathasala. Many of them volunteered to help the institution 
financially, but my family were giving me enough money to 
carry on its activities. From 1923 onwards visitors came from 
far and wide as they heard of this school at the time of the 
Congress session, and presented it with books in Hindi. Thus the 
Pathasala could build up a nucleus library with a few hundred 
books by eminent authors. About three hundred women 
appeared for the Prachar Sabha examinations between 1923 



and 1930. Some of them were later instrumental in spreading the 
cause of Hindi to various places, either individually or by 
establishing small schools wherever they settled. 

The British Raj identified the Hindi workers and the national 
institutions as agitators and kept them all under surveillance. 
When I was arrested in 1930 in the Salt Satyagraha movement 
in Madras, my mother, who had by then passed the 
Rashtrabhasha examination, managed to carry on the work of 
the Balika Hindi Pathasala. The number of student^, however, 
dwindled considerably as they were afraid of attending an 
institution which was under police surveillance. When my 
mother also enlisted herself in the Satyagraha movement and 
courted imprisonment in 1932, the school virtually broke up. 
The students that were bold enough to attend were jailed and the 
properties of the school were confiscated. But its spirit persisted 
and some of the students later established in several parts of the 
city, even in remote villages and towns, their own schools where 
they taught Hindi and charkha. It was a tribute not only to me 
but to all these co-workers when, at the convocation of the Hindi 
Prachar Sabha at Madras in January 1946, Mahatma Gandhi 
presented me with a gold medal in recognition of my services to 
the cause of Hindi. 

The Balika Hindi Pathasala was the starting point of the 
institutions which I was able to build up later in Madras and 
Hyderabad and in the districts of Andhra Pradesh. 

My next major involvement in the nationalist movement 
under Gandhiji’s leadership was during the Salt Satyagraha. 
This was a movement against the salt tax as a symbol of the 
burden imposed on the common Indian by the exploitative 
colonial regime. 

The movement was headed in South India by C. 
Rajagopalachari, who launched the Satyagraha at Vedaranyam, 
and by T. Prakasam, who defied the salt law at Madras. 
Prakasam knew that he could be arrested, and he named me as 
the “dictator” of the movement after him. I was arrested three 



times and went through as many terms of imprisonment. 

During part of my term in jail, at Vellore, I was allowed to 
mix with the women criminal convicts as the jail authorities had 
developed some confidence in me. I tried to know under what 
circumstances these women had committed the crimes for which 
they were convicted. Some of them were sentenced to life 
imprisonment. Their narration left a very deep impression on my 
mind. Being uneducated and illiterate, some of them pleaded 
guilty to the charges even though they did not commit the crime. 
I had then decided to take up the study of law so that I could 
give such women free legal aid and assist them to defend 
themselves. I felt that just as a woman patient would take a 
woman doctor into confidence and reveal all her ailments freely, 
if an accused woman had the assistance of a woman lawyer she 
would narrate her case freely and fearlessly. Many of the women 
accused of murder were apt to hide important facts having a 
bearing on the case because they related to their love affairs. 

I had occasion while in jail to agitate against the jail 
authorities for their not following the jail code strictly and for 
harassing even the political prisoners by keeping as many as 
seventy of them in one small room and not giving them the kind 
of food which they were entitled to under the jail rules. 

I also revolted within my own Congress party against 
allowing the British to adopt a “Divide and Rule” policy by 
creating three classes of political prisoners - A, B, and C - who 
had committed identical political offence (if it were an offence) 
by defying the salt law. I was then A class prisoner. I requested 
the authorities to transfer me to C class as I found hundreds of 
women, very old and sick, suffering in C class. The Jail 
Superintendent told me that it was not in his power to transfer 
me from A class to C class, and that I should have said it to the 
magistrate at the time of my trial. After my release, I moved a 
resolution at a meeting of the All India Congress Committee at 
Guntur that political prisoners should not accept A class unless 
it was given to all those who committed the same offence, or 



they should all go to C class, and that they should mention this 
at the time of their trial in the court. That resolution was passed 
unanimously. In spite of this, except for a very few people, 
Satyagrahis accepted A class, some on medical grounds and 
others on the ground of domestic difficulties. 

I felt so strongly that this classification would result in driving 
a wedge between the political workers that I requested the 
magistrate the next time when I was tried that he should give me 
C class and that I would not accept A class till it was given to all 


my fellow prisoners. The magistrate said that he knew my family 
and that I deserved a better class. I said that it did not matter to 
me at all, and that I should like to stick to the principle that 
either all of us should be in A class or we should all be placed in 
C class. 

I was released in 1933 from my third spell of imprisonment, 
after undergoing solitary confinement for nearly one year in 
Madurai Jail. After this I did not take active part in politics, one 
reason being that my mental health was completely shattered. 
As I was locked up in Madurai jail in a cell next to the death 
cells and gallows, I used to hear the agonising cries of the 
prisoners to be hanged early the next morning. This had greatly 
upset me and I began to get fits of hysteria. Also, the food in the 
jail was of bad quality and it was suspected that there was an 
attempt to subject me to slow poisoning. I believe there were 
some questions about it in the Madras Legislative Assembly. 
After my release, I found that some black blood was oozing 
from my arms. Dr. Rangachari, who was a very competent 
physician and whose statue can be seen at the entrance to the 
General Hospital in Madras, advised that I should not be 
permitted to enter politics again, and be put on some kind of 
occupational therapy. 

I was not then educated, except that I had completed my fifth 
vernacular class in the Girls’ School at Kakinada. A teacher 
whom I knew at the time was Goparaju Ramachandra Rao 
(“Gora” as he was popularly known), who was Botany 



Professor at Kakinada. He taught me the rudiments of English. 
Since he found my assimilation of lessons good, it occurred to 
him in mid- 1933 that I might appear in May 1934 for the 
Banaras Hindu University’s matriculation examination as a 
private candidate. This paved the way for my higher studies in 
the Banaras Hindu University which was headed by Pandit 
Madan Mohan Malaviya. 

After passing the matriculation examination, I succeeded 
also, with the kind support provided by Pandit Madan Mohan 
Malaviya by way of scholarship in passing the Intermediate 
examination. I contracted chicken-pox during the examination. 
Generally, such candidates were prohibited from entering the 
examination hall. However, Pandit Malaviyaji was kind enough 
to permit me to sit in a separate room and answer the last two 
papers with the help of a scribe. 

While staying on the BHU campus in the Women’s College 
hostel, I was struck with admiration by the personality of Pandit 
Malaviya. He used to visit us in our College almost every day 
and talk to every one of us kindly. I felt inspired by the great 
work he had done in the establishment of the university almost 
single-handed. The buildings in the university filled me with joy 
and thrill. I used to take regular evening walks on the campus, 
sometimes alone and at other times along with a few of my 
class-mates. When I watched the buildings I used to visualise the 
old man going round at that ripe age to collect funds for their 
construction. I would also wonder whether in my lifetime I could 
raise even one building such as the one Madan Mohan Malaviya 
had constructed. 

If Gandhiji’s call inspired me for starting the Balika Hindi 
Pathasala in the early ’twenties in Kakinada, it was the 
inspiration that I got from Madan Mohan Malaviya in Banaras 
that formed the basis for my launching upon the construction 
programme for Andhra Mahila Sabha’s buildings in Madras in 
the ’forties. 

Since I was interested and involved in politics, I wanted to 



prepare for the Bachelor of Arts degree in Politics from the 
BHU, but the somewhat conservative Malaviyaji would not 
countenance women studying a subject which, according to him, 
was meant essentially for men. So I decided to migrate to 
Andhra University. But it was not that easy. I had to engage 
myself in a battle of wits with the Vice-Chancellor, Dr. C.R. 
Reddy, before I was admitted. Dr. Reddy said that he would 
have been glad to give me admission but regretted that they had 
no women’s hostel. Since the absence of a hostel for .women was 
cited as the obstacle, I decided to try and remove it. I put in a 
newspaper advertisement requesting women who would like to 
join Andhra University for higher education, but were unable to 
do so in the absence of a women’s hostel, to get in touch with me 
for organising a hostel. The response was good. About ten of us 
got together, located suitable premises, and arranged to start a 
hostel. I then presented myself again before Dr. C.R. Reddy, 
informed him that the hostel problem had been solved, and 
requested him to grant us all admission to the respective degree 
courses. Dr. Reddy agreed, and I eventually took the special 
B.A. Honours (equivalent to M.A.) examination of Andhra 
University, in Political Science, in 1939. 

Since I had been rated in the first class in my M.A. degree, I 
got the Tata Scholarship to pursue my studies at the London 
School of Economics and also a seat in the Inner Temple to 
study Law. But I could not avail myself of these opportunities, 
as the Second World War broke out by that time. I therefore 
joined the Law College in Madras. I took the degree of Bachelor 
of Laws in 1941, and I was called to the Bar in December 1942. 

II. Madras '.Andhra Mahila Sabha 

Following the introduction of provincial autonomy and the 
elections, on limited suffrage, in early 1937, a popular 
government was formed in Madras with C. Rajagopalachari as 
Prime Minister. T. Prakasam was the Revenue Minister. Bulusu 
Sambamurti was elected unanimously Speaker of the Legislative 
Assembly. By this time my brother Narayana Rao had 
completed his education, having secured the Master’s degree in 
Political Science from the BHU. Sambamurti was good enough 
to take my brother as his Personal Assistant. Thus arose the 
shifting of our family to Madras in the year 1937. We lived at 
No. 14, Dwaraka, in the Brindavan Gardens. 

I was then studying for B.A. Honours at the Andhra 
University, Waltair. I used to go to Madras to spend the 
vacations with my mother. I could not stay more than a 
fortnight or a month at a stretch in Madras from 1937 to 1939. 
It was during this period that the Little Ladies of Brindavan was 

Whenever I went to Madras I used to see many children 
playing near our house. The place was not fully built upon and 
was strewn with sand, bricks, and stones. The children, mostly 
between the ages of four and ten, fascinated me and my mother. 
We thought we could do something for them by way of teaching 
them songs, dances, and stories. We succeeded in getting them 
to our house and gradually my mother began to teach them 



It was at this time that the Madras station of All India Radio 
introduced the children’s programme in its broadcasts. This 
provided us the opportunity to train the children for 
participation in that programme. Sri Rajanikanta Rao and Sri 
Prayaga Narasimha Sastry came regularly to our house and 
taught the children what they should do for the next programme, 
and they even wrote scripts for them to practise. These activities 
attracted many more children to our house. 

When the number of children increased considerably we 
thought we should start classes in dancing for girls. Though 
Bharata Natyam in those days was not new, it was not as yet 
popular and there were few classes available. We enlisted the 
services of a young women from Tanjore, Smt. Ranganayaki, a 
well-known dance teacher. 

Along with the children their mothers also came in the 
evenings, and my mother lost no time in starting Hindi classes 
for them, too. Slowly the number of children and mothers began 
to grow and our house proved too small to accommodate them 
all. Speaker Bulusu Sambamurti’s house was very close to ours; 
he offered some accommodation and we divided the classes 
between the two houses. There were more than fifty women and 
about one hundred children. We named the group of children as 
Little Ladies of Brindavan, though many boys also took part in 
the activities. My mother was working as a Hindi teacher in the 
Seva Sadan High School and taught classes at Brindavan in the 
evenings, though it was a strain. My brother’s wife, Smt. 
Timmabai, who worked as a teacher in a missionary school in 
Royapettah, was very helpful in gathering the children and 
organising indoor games such as carrom for them. 

The Little Ladies of Brindavan was growing so fast in 
numbers and in activities that we had to find a bigger house and 
establish the institution on a sound basis, including the raising of 
funds for paying the teachers we had appointed for dancing and 
music and other activities. 

Chennapuri Andhra Maha Sabha was at the time a well- 



established institution in Madras. It was founded by the resident 
Andhras in Madras City, as a social, cultural, and recreational 
organisation open to both men and women. The dramatics 
section of the institution was the most active. At the suggestion 
of Bulusu Sambamurti, as president of the Chennapuri Andhra 
Maha Sabha, our Little Ladies of Brindavan became a women’s 
and children’s section of the Sabha. Having completed my 
education at Waltair I came to Madras and joined the Law 
College in 1939, and started to work for the women’s and 
children’s section of the Andhra Maha Sabha. 

I was one of the three secretaries of the organising committee 
formed to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of the Chennapuri Andhra 
Maha Sabha. We planned it on a grand scale and the 
programme was spread over two weeks. The women’s and 
children’s section took an active part in the celebrations. 

As the Andhra Maha Sabha was essentially a club and its 
membership consisted largely of men, its activities were mostly 
tailored to suit their needs. We therefore felt after some time that 
we should function as an independent body, with the name of 
Andhra Mahila Sabha, with our own programmes to meet the 
social, educational, and cultural needs of women. 

The years 1940-42 were a bad period for the whole country. 
The clouds of the Second World War were spreading over the 
Indian sky and there were rumours that enemy bombers might 
strike Madras City any day. This was also a crucial period for 
the Andhra Mahila Sabha. 

Although the decision to separate ourselves from the 
Chennapuri Andhra Maha Sabha was a welcome development, 
it had brought in its trail many challenges. To start with, an 
action programme had to be chalked out to give meaning and 
content to the decision. Then, it should have its own buildings. 

We had taken up an important activity: a condensed course 
of education for adult women, of the kind from which I had 
benefited. We felt that it was necessary to provide coaching for 
adult women to prepare them for an examination equivalent to 



Matriculation or Secondary School Leaving Certificate. Many 
women became destitute, deserted, or widowed, and were in 
need of acquiring some skill or education to earn their living. 
Most of them were drop-outs, having discontinued their 
education after marriage in their early teens. Some of them had 
studied only up to third or fourth class and none beyond the fifth 
class. A course for them meant that the entire process of ten 
years’ education required for becoming a matriculate had to be 
condensed into two or at most three years, with intensive 
coaching. The Banaras Hindu University allowed' women to 
appear as private candidates for an Admission Examination 
equivalent to Matriculation. Women were exempted from the 
subject of arithmetics and instead they could study domestic 
science. We therefore decided to train the women for the 
Admission Examination of the Banaras Hindu University. 

We acquired a suitable house at No. 2, Luz Church Road, 
and moved into it. The classes for the BHU Admission 
Examination and in Hindi, music, and dance were soon in full 
swing. However, we could not continue in this building for more 
than six months as the number of students grew with every 
passing day and ran into hundreds. Therefore we moved to the 
more spacious No. 1, Luz Church Road. It had been built 
during the time of the East India Company and had big halls 
with several underground cellars. Some teachers were recruited, 
among them Sri Nalinikanta Rao took complete charge of the 
BHU Admission Examination course. With expenses mounting, 
we had to mobilise more resources and therefore embarked on a 
campaign for enrolling patrons, donors, and life members for the 
Andhra Mahila Sabha. Within one year we had more than 
three hundred life members on our rolls. 

Many women, helpless and needy, who could not afford to 
study, came to us. They had to earn money immediately to have 
two meals a day and to look after their children. We had 
therefore to find out some avenues for employing them and 
paying them wages every day. Sewing, tailoring, and embroidery 



were familiar trades already. We decided to open some new 
sections: spinning, weaving, hand-made paper, bamboo, cane 
work, and mat weaving. The open space at the new premises 
was large enough to construct a big work shed there. We had to 
buy charkhas, sewing machines, etc., as also equipment for 
making hand-made paper. All this required an outlay of at least 
five thousand rupees. It was like a God-send when Maharaja 
Vikramadeva Varma of Jeypore happened to visit Madras at the 
time. We invited him to visit our institution. He was very pleased 
with what 'we were doing and readily donated five thousand 
rupees. The expansion of the work centre took place in 1941. 
We were able to pay at least two rupees per day to the women 
who joined the work classes, by selling the products. The same 
year we celebrated the third anniversary of the Andhra Mahila 
Sabha with Sarojini Naidu in the chair. 

In the year 1942 we sent the first batch of our students to 
Banaras to appear for the Admission Examination as private 
candidates. The air-raid scare was growing. People were afraid 
even to move out of their houses, not to speak of travelling 
places. The question before us was whether we should send them 
to Banaras at all: what if the bridges should be blown up? But 
we were determined to go ahead. I offered to go with the stu- 
dents to Banaras. I was at the time an apprentice at law in the 
chambers of Sri Raghava Rao and was qualified to be called to 
the Bar. However, postponing my enrolment as an advocate, I 
decided to accompany the students who included G. Leela, 
Varalakshmi, Jamunabai, my sister-in-law Timmabaiamma, 
Indira, daughter of the late Dr. Rangachari, and Hemalata 
Prabhu. Though eighteen students were expected to go to 
Banaras, some of them dropped out as they or their parents 
were afraid of taking the risk involved in travel during war time. 
Sri Nalinikanta Rao came with us so that he could be of help to 
the students in preparing for the examination. 

We had to change at Itarsi and take another train for Banaras 
via Jabalpur. We had to wait for about ten hours at Itarsi to 



board the train for Banaras. So we booked in a hotel near the 
railway station. Around midnight four thieves broke into our 
rooms and tried to run away with our suitcases and other lug- 
gage. Fortunately, I, Nalinikanta Rao, and a few students were 
awake. We chased the thieves and overpowered some of them 
and got back our belongings. It did not matter that in the en- 
counter with the burglars we were left with some bruises. 
Not only we did not become panicky but we had enjoyed the 
nocturnal adventure in a new place and became confident of 

Finding a place for our stay in Banaras proved difficult. Even- 
tually we could find a shelter in the Vijayanagaram palace. The 
Maharajkumar of Vijayanagaram (“Vizzy”) and his mother 
were very sympathetic and allowed us to use a part of the palace 
to make our own messing arrangements. 

We had a pleasant time riding in ekkas, going round in the 
lanes for making small purchases, visiting the Viswanatha 
temple, bathing in the holy Ganges, and finally taking a boat 
ride. We also visited the Harishchandra and Manikarnika 
Ghats. And of course we visited the university founded by Pan- 
dit Madan Mohan Malaviya, once my alma mater. 

The results of the Banaras examination were published in the 
month of June and our percentage of passes was ninety. This 
was really heartening. However, there arose some unexpected 
and unforeseen problems when some of the successful students 
who sought admission in the Intermediate class in the city 
colleges of Madras were told that they had not completed the 
prescribed ten years schooling, and had had only two years of 
instruction. The Andhra Mahila Sabha had to fight for their 
cause on the ground that the Admission Examination of the 
BHU they passed was equivalent to the S.S.L.C. or Matric 
examination of the Madras University. We also argued that 
under the university ordinances no university could refuse 
admission to a student from another university, provided he/she 
was qualified for admission to university class and had secured 



the requisite percentage of marks. After some correspondence 
between the Banaras and the Madras Universities we established 
our point, and many of our women who had obtained the 
qualifying marks gained admission in Queen Mary’s, 
Presidency, and Women’s Christian College. And some of the 
students who had obtained more than sixty percent marks 
secured admission in science courses. 

This led us to think why we ourselves should not coach 
women students for the Intermediate examination. We decided 
to have them and started the classes in 1943. To start with, we 
had only eight students: Jamunabai, Bharati, Netrakanti 
Lakshmi Narasamma, and G. Leela were among them. The 
teachers we employed included Anant Rao Baji, S.K. Rao, 
Ekambaram, and Kamalapati. The first two were preparing for 
their doctoral courses at the Madras University. The sum we 
paid them was just enough to defray their expenditure on 
conveyance to attend our school. The result of their two years’ 
coaching were one hundred percent passes. We felt happy when 
Bharati later married Dr. A.R. Baji. Our private coaching for 
Intermediate examination continued thereafter uninterruptedly. 
As more and more students joined the classes we had to increase 
the teacher strength. 

Women outside of Madras City who came to know of our 
condensed course of education for adult women started to apply 
for admission. We were willing to take them but our problem 
was that there was no hostel facility. We found no alternative 
but to start a hostel in Madhava Bagh for half a dozen women. 
Km. Jamunabai volunteered to stay in the hostel, at my request, 
as an honorary warden. 

The Mahila Vidyalaya thus established itself as an appendage 
of the Andhra Mahila Sabha with provision for preparing 
women students for the Banaras Hindu University Admission 
Examination and for the Intermediate examination of the 
Madras University. 

Another activity of the Sabha was the publication of the 



Andhra Mahila as a monthly magazine. This was my brother’s 
brain-child. He argued that such a magazine was necessary, 
especially during the war years when the Sabha members had 
left Madras and were dispersed at several places because of the 
air-raid scare. The only way to keep them in touch with one 
another and with the Sabha would be through the forum of a 
magazine. Since my brother was thrown out of government 
service due to his suspected political activities, he was in a 
position to devote full time to write, print, and publish the 
journal. Sri Mallavarapu Visweswara Rao contributed to the 
growth of the Andhra Mahila as its Associate Editor in its initial 

Until the Andhra Mahila Sabha established its own press in 
Madras three years later, the journal was printed in the Hindi 
Prachar Sabha Press. Sri Avaste, its Manager, spared no effort 
in printing the magazine according to the schedule. I remember 
with gratitude how well-known writers such as Kanuparti 
Varalakshmamma, Sthanapati Rukminamma, and Nayani 
Krishnakumari enriched the pages of the Andhra Mahila with 
their contributions. The picture of my brother bringing the 
bundles of printed copies from the press in Thyagarayanagar, 
the hostel girls folding and wrapping up the copies and pasting 
addresses and postage stamps, and Sugunamani taking them to 
the post office for despatch can never leave my mind. Social 
service was one hundred per cent voluntary effort in those days. 
Andhra Mahila had later to stop publication for a couple of 
years but reappeared under a new title Vijaya Durga , in English 
besides Telugu. 

Thus, between 1937 and 1946, the Andhra Mahila Sabha 
grew from its small beginnings - Little Ladies of Brindavan — to 
a full-fledged institution. Its membership during 1944-46 was 
seven to eight hundred and its activities were varied: Hindi 
classes, classes for the BHU Admission Examination with hostel 
attached, classes in music and dancing and an industrial section 
with a production unit attached. It was a proud moment for all 



of us when Mahatma Gandhi laid the foundation-stone for the 
first building of Andhra Mahila Sabha in Madras in January 
1946. The dream inspired by Malaviyaji came true! 

III. The National Scene 

Fortune smiled on me in my legal practice. By 1946, within 
four years of my being called to the Bar, I was one of the leading 
criminal lawyers in Madras. Whenever I accepted a brief in 
which women were involved, I would remember my discussions 
with the women convicts in Vellore jail. 

To my pleasant surprise, I was elected member of the 
Constituent Assembly as a Congress candidate towards the 
close of 1946. The first sitting of the Constituent Assembly was 
held on 7 December. 

1 made it a point to attend every sitting of the Constituent 
Assembly and also of the Congress Assembly Party which was 
held almost every alternate day in the Constitution House. At 
the party meetings we used to discuss threadbare the provisions 
of the Draft Constitution. Besides Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, 
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Sir Gopalaswamy Iyengar took 
great pains in explaining the significance of the important 
provisions such as Fundamental Rights, Directive Principles of 
State Policy, and the paramountcy of the Princely States. Sir 
B.N. Rau, a constitutional expert, used to explain the 
constitutions of several countries for comparison. Dr. 
Ambedkar was in charge of the drafting of the Constitution. On 
occasions he would raise objections on certain points. After a 
thorough discussion the issues were settled by vote. 

I took active interest in these discussions and so did some 



other lady members such as Rajkumari Amrit Kaur and 
Renuka Ray. I was a member of the Steering Committee. Sardar 
Patel asked Sir B.N. Rau to entrust me with the work of 
studying the amendments proposed by members and putting 
them on the agenda for discussion in the House. I must have 
moved more than 750 amendments - some oh my own and 
some in collaboration with Sri K. Santhanam and Sri 
Ananthasayanam Iyengar. 

The level of working of the Constituent Assembly, which also 
functioned as the Provisional Parliament, was of the highest 
order. There was always decorum and discipline in the House. 
Sri Mavlankar, the Speaker, conducted the proceedings with all 
the dignity that the House deserved. Almost every member had 
a chance to participate in the debates. The question hour used to 
be instructive. The visitors’ galleries were always packed, among 
others with foreigners, particularly during the question hour. It 
is amusing to recall that some members after making a speech or 
asking a question used to run up to the Press gallery to make 
sure that their contribution was recorded and would be 
published in the newspapers. 

I was a member of the Panel of Chairmen of the Provisional 
Parliament. Speaker Mavlankar gave me several opportunities 
to preside and conduct the proceedings of the House in his 
absence. Once when I was in the Chair and a member addressed 
me “Sir”, several members protested and said that I should be 
addressed “Madam Chairman”. I, however, said that it did not 
matter how I was addressed, that it was constitutionally correct 
to address the Chair as Sir, and that we should not bother about 
sex differences in the matter. 

I am happy to record that I was in the Chair when some 
important Bills relating to Banaras Hindu University, Aligarh 
Muslim University, and Viswa Bharati University came up for 
discussion in the House. I was also in the Chair during part of 
the discussion on the Hindu Code Bill. 

I was particularly gratified for being associated with the 



debate on the Hindu Code Bill. Drawn up by a committee 
appointed in 1941 to work out a rationalised Hindu personal 
law, the Bill was introduced in the Provisional Parliament in 
1947. The Bill was the culmination of the efforts made by social 
reformers from the early nineteenth century onwards for 
improvement in the status of women. 

Women in ancient India had enjoyed a fair measure of 
equality with men in all spheres of activity. The Rigveda, the 
Upanishads, and Kautilya’s Arthasastra bear testimpny to this. 
The Upanishads expounded the idea of man and woman as 
equal halves of a divine unity, each complementing the other and 
incomplete without the other. Women philosophers of the 
Upanishadic period such as Brahmavadini and Gargi crossed 
swords in the conferences of Rishis such as Yagnavalkya 
convened at the court of Rajarshi Janaka of Videha. The 
Buddhist age continued this Brahmanical tradition of the 
equality of sexes, and their nuns and Bhikshunis played an 
important part by rendering missionary service as equals of 
men. However, deterioration in the status of women set in as a 
consequence of frequent invasions from outside and disturbed 
social conditions. Strict seclusion of women became the rule. 
The purdah system and the practice of sati (immolation of 
widow on the husband’s pyre) grew, and under the joint family 
system women were excluded from succession to property. 

The advent of the British on the Indian scene resulted in the 
introduction of an alien culture and a new economic order. The 
middle-class women began to adjust themselves to the new 
situation and took to the new education system introduced by 
the British. As far back as 1878 Indian girls began to study in 
the universities and a decade later voyaged to far-off countries 
to study medicine and law. However, provision of higher 
education for women was slow and halting. 

Mahatma Gandhi brought about a dynamic change among 
women. In response to his call women came out in large 
numbers to participate in the struggle for India’s freedom. It was 



in this political awakening that we find the renaissance of Indian 
womanhood. In the 1936 elections many women entered 
legislatures, municipal councils, and local boards. The women 
members of the Constituent Assembly made significant 
contributions to the deliberations. 

Legislation for the improvement of the lot of women began to 
be enacted even during the British rule. The earliest reform was 
the abolition of sati, at the instance of Raja Ram Mohun Roy 
who also carried on a campaign against other social evils such 
as female infanticide, polygamy, and the denial of education to 
women. Among other landmarks were the enactment in 1865 of 
the Hindu Widows Remarriage Act, and the 1929 enactment, 
popularly known as the Sharada Act, prohibiting child marriage 
by prescribing minimum ages of marriage for both girls and 
boys. The Hindu Code Bill sought to carry this process forward 
by prohibiting polygamy, making divorce less difficult, and 
providing for succession to property for the daughters, the 
mother, and the widow. 

However, opposition to the Hindu Code Bill was so strong 
that only four clauses of the Bill had been passed by the time the 
Provisional Parliament was dissolved in 1951. Orthodox 
resistance to the reform was dramatised during the ensuing 
general elections, the first to be held on the basis of adult 
franchise under the new Constitution. From East Allahabad 
Jawaharlal Nehru’s chief opponent was Prabhu Dutt 
Brahmachari, a former Congressman-turned-ascetic. 
Brahmachari offered to withdraw from the contest if the Prime 
Minister assured him in writing that the Hindu Code Bill would 
be dropped. Nehru’s characteristic response was to offer to fight 
the election on the very issue of the Code. 

It was due largely to Nehru’s prodding that India’s first 
Parliament, convened in 1952, revived the lapsed Hindu Code 
Bill in parts, and enacted a series of legislative measures for 
improving the status of women. The Hindu Marriages Act, 
which came into operation in May 1955, ended the age-old 



institution of marriage as a one-sided sacrament. It enforced 
monogamy on both the parties, and permitted divorce on the 
grounds of adultery, desertion, cruelty, insanity, or incurable 
disease. The Hindu Succession Act, which became effective 
from June 1956, gives the daughter and other defined female 
relations a share in the property of Hindu males dying intestate 
(making of wills is confined to a small minority). Before this Act 
was legislated, property could pass only to sons or, in the 
absence of male issue, to brothers and other male agnates and 
cognates entitled to perform religious rites for the deceased. The 
line of succession bore no relation to the direction of natural love 
and affection. The daughter, the mother, and the widow have 
now been given a share in the self-acquired property of the 

The Dowry (Prohibition) Act was legislated in 1961. There is, 
however, a considerable gap between these enactments and 
actual social practice. The practice of dowry began as an 
arrangement for the protection of the bride by endowing her 
with Streedhana (woman’s personal property). But in course of 
time it became an instrument of exaction by the parents of the 
bridegroom, to such a point that parents began to lament the 
birth of a daughter as a curse. The evil continues even today, 
despite the passing of the Dowry (Prohibition) Act. Similarly, 
the Child Marriage (Restraint) Act continues to be largely 
ignored. Women rarely go to court to enforce their property 
rights. There is still much to be done, therefore, to educate public 
opinion in favour of equal rights for women and to secure 
compliance with the laws. 

I had first met Sardar Patel at the Karachi Congress session 
in 1931. He presided over that session. Sri Jamnalal Bajaj 
introduced me to Sardar Patel, who smiled and said: “Oh, you 
are the girl-principal of the national institution?” It was my 
pleasure to work with him in the Constituent Assembly as a 
member of the Steering Committee, of which Babu Rajendra 
Prasad was the Chairman. 



Once, when I had criticised the Budget as the rich man’s 
budget which showed no concern for the common man’s 
welfare. Dr. John Matthai, the Finance Minister, said that I was 
too much concerned with the man-in-the-street. There was an 
uproar in the House and some members asked Dr. Matthai to 
apologise to me for using those unworthy words. I said that 
there was no need for Dr. Matthai to apologise and that he 
meant no offence. A little later Sardar Patel, who sat in the front 
bench, came to me and said: “You are a noble and generous- 
hearted woman. I appreciate what you have said.” 

Sardar Patel expressed his appreciation for me a second time 
when I made my speech in Hindi. From then on he started to 
invite me for lunch almost once a week. As I was not trained in 
talk manners and drawing-room conversations, I did not attend 
the Sardar’s lucheons for some weeks. After the fourth 
invitation, one morning the Sardar’s Personal Assistant came to 
my house and asked me whether I was attending Sardar Patel’s 
luncheon that day. I said no. He asked me why? I said that I 
myself had a couple of guests. Then he said that Sardar Patel 
had sent him to bring me along with him, and that I could take 
the two guests with me. I had no escape. I went. I found my seat 
next to Sardar Patel’s. 

I invited Sardar Patel and his daughter Maniben to visit the 
Andhra Mahila Sabha building when they visited Madras. He 
accepted the invitation and spent an hour at the Sabha office 
showing keen interest in the Sabha’s activities. 

Once Chief Justice Kania of the Supreme Court sent for 
me - 1 was practising in the Supreme Court at the time - and 
said, “Look, Durgabai, you know that we have a very poor 
library for the Court. I know that Sardar Patel has great 
affection for you. Could you please mention to him that the 
provision of fifty thousand rupees for the library is very 
inadequate and that it should be raised to one lakh?” I 
mentioned this to the Sardar, who said: “Go and inform the 
Chief Justice that it will be done.” I later found that most of the 



books of Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru’s library were given to the 
Supreme Court, in addition to raising the library’s budget to one 
lakh rupees. 

Another occasion I was to see the Sardar was for getting a 
site allotted for the Andhra Education Society School building in 
Delhi. The Society was organised on my initiative to provide 
education for the children of the local Telugu-speaking people. I 
understood that when the Sardar’s Secretary, Sri V. Shankar, 
mentioned to him that I wanted an appointment with him, 
Sardar said: “Let her come. I know that she never asks for a 
personal favour. It must be for some public cause.” When I was 
called in, I requested him to allot a site for the school building. 
The Sardar called Sri Shankar and told him to have some sites 
shown to me and get allotted whatever I select. The next day the 
Chief Commissioner of Delhi, Sri Shankar Prasad, telephoned 
to invite me to go with him and see the possible sites. I was later 
told by Sri Shankar that two days before Sardar died he asked 
Sri Shankar whether a site had been allotted for the school. 

Jawaharlal Nehru had started to work on plans for the social 
and economic development of independent India. As President 
of the Indian National Congress and as Prime Minister he had 
set up many committees, at both the government and the party 
levels, for drawing up development plans in various spheres of 
activity. These included the different stages of education: there 
was a commission on university education under the 
chairmanship of Dr. S. Radhakrishnan; one on secondary 
education under the chairmanship of Dr. Lakshmanaswami 
Mudaliar; and another on primary education under the 
chairmanship of Sri B.G. Kher, Prime Minister of Bombay 
Presidency. It was also Nehru’s idea to set up a high-level 
machinery for economic planning. The idea of a Planning 
Commission was thus mooted with the intention that it would 
advise the government on the formulation and implementation 
of economic plans. 

Dr. John Matthai was the first Finance Minister in Nehru’s 



Cabinet. Rumours were current that he was not in favour of 
setting up a Planning Commission. It was within my knowledge 
then - and this was proved by later events — that on this issue 
there arose serious differences of opinion between him and the 
Prime Minister, and they ended with the resignation of Dr. 
Matthai from the Cabinet. 

Nehru then invited Sri Chintaman Dwarakanath Deshmukh 
to help him in drafting the resolution to be moved by the 
government in Parliament for setting up a Planning 
Commission. Deshmukh was then Governor of the Reserve 
Bank of India. Nehru and Deshmukh had had discussions 
earlier and Deshmukh was in complete agreement with him on 
the need for a body such as the Planning Commission. So he 
readily accepted the invitation. 

IV. I Marry Chintaman 

I had occasion to visit Bombay in early 1950 in connection 
with the Mudgal corruption case. I was on a committee of 
Parliament, of which T.T. Krishnamachari was Chairman, to 
look into the corruption charges against Sri Mudgal, a member 
of the Provisional Parliament. After our enquiry a report was 
submitted to Parliament by Krishnamachari on behalf of the 
Committee. I added a few comments of my own, as part of the 
report, and called them “Do’s and Don’ts” - they were in the 
nature of a code of ethics for public men in general and for 
members of Parliament and ministers in particular. 

While in Bombay I asked a friend, who was a senior 
economist in the Reserve Bank of India, whether I could see the 
Governor of the Bank. He replied: “The Governor does not see 
visitors unless they have some specific and official work with 
him.” I had neither. I had only wanted to see him as I had heard 
from common friends a good deal about his stewardship of the 
Reserve Bank of India as the first Indian Governor, and his 
great qualities of head and heart which had endeared him to one 
and all who knew him. My friend regretted that he could not fix 
up an appointment for me. 

Chintaman Deshmukh assumed office as Finance Minister in 
May 1950. I was to come to know later that when Jawaharlal 
Nehru invited Chintaman to join his Cabinet as Finance 
Minister, Chintaman first suggested the names of C. 



Rajagopalachari and N. Gopalaswamy Iyengar who, in his 
opinion, were better suited to hold the portfolio of Finance than 
he was. Pandit Nehru told Chintaman that when he had 
sounded Rajagopalachari, Rajaji told him that C.D. Deshmukh 
was the most suitable person for the Finance portfolio; 
Gopalaswamy Iyenger, too, expressed the same opinion. 
Coming from two of the most eminent statesmen, this was 
indeed a great tribute to Chintaman Deshmukh. 

One dayj found Sri Sri Prakasa, the Commerce Minister, and 
my friend from West Bengal, Smt. Renuka Ray, sitting by my 
side in the Provisional Parliament. Sri Sri Prakasa asked me 
whether I knew Chintaman Deshmukh. I told him that I had 
heard much about him, but I had not had the opportunity of 
meeting him. I also informed him of how my attempt to see him 
in Bombay did not succeed. He said that he wanted to introduce 
me to Deshmukh, as I was an active member of the House and a 
member of the Panel of Chairmen. I told him that I would have 
occasions to meet him in the course of our work. 

Deshmukh presented his budget for the year 1951-52 in 
March 1951. During my speech in the House, I criticised the 
budget on the same grounds as I had criticised Dr. John 
Matthai’s — as a rich man’s budget with no provisions for the 
poor. Incidentally, I spoke in Hindi, which was much 
appreciated by several members including the Finance Minister. 

I found to my surprise that I was nominated as a member of 
the Select Committee on the Finance Bill. (I came to know later 
that no woman member had ever been on this Committee.) I 
remember that at one of the sittings of the Committee I asked 
Deshmukh: “Sir, you have imposed a tax on tobacco. It is a 
good thing, because you save poor people from smoking and 
ruining their health. But what about allocating the revenue from 
this source for the implementation of plans for the poor, the 
destitute, the deserted, the blind, the orphans, etc.?” He said: 
“You will see it in the revised budget proposals, under the head 
‘Social Welfare’.” I remember Dr. Ambedkar remarking during 



the debate on the revised budget proposals, pointing at me, 
“This woman has a bee in her bonnet.” He classified women into 
three categories - females, women, and ladies, and placed me in 
the category “women”! 

Some time later there arose an occasion for me to meet the 
great man in his chamber in the Parliament House. I think I was 
the seventh in the queue. When my turn came, I told him of my 
not being able to meet him in Bombay earlier. Then I came to 
business. I said: “I have come to make a request as a social 
worker. As Finance Minister, you have made for the first time a 
provision for Social Welfare in the budget. I would request you 
to visit the Andhra Mahila Sabha, a premier social welfare 
organisation in Madras, and inaugurate its maternity ward with 
a labour room, built as a nucleus of our Mother-Child Services.” 
I gave him details of the Sabha’s activities. He kept silent for a 
while and then said that he would accept the invitation with 

In October 1951, on the Vijayadasami day, my brother, his 
wife, and I celebrated the marriage of my niece Leela with 
Madhav Rao Baji, an engineer of the Andhra Pradesh Road 
Transport Corporation, in Delhi at my quarters at 21 Canning 
Lane. Chintaman attended the marriage. He also came for the 
reception in the evening and stayed on, at my request, for din- 
ner. The Prime Minister, his daughter Indira Gandhi and sisters 
Vijayalakshmi Pandit and Krishna Hutheesing also attended the 
marriage and the reception. 

After the coming into force of the new Constitution in 
January 1950, I had no inclination to continue in politics and 
public life. I had much preferred to apply my time and energy to 
building up social welfare institutions. But Jawaharlal Nehru did 
not agree to my going back to Madras. He wanted me to contest 
the first general elections to the Lok Sabha. 

I should ordinarily have contested from Madras, but this had 
to be given up in favour of T.T. Krishnamachari. I was put up as 
Congress candidate for the Rajahmundry constituency, from 



where I had been away for nearly fifteen years. I lost to a com- 

Having ceased to be a member of Parliament, I had decided 
to leave Delhi and return to Madras to resume my legal practice 
and to look after the activities of the Andhra Mahila Sabha. But 
Pandit Nehru did not permit me to leave Delhi. 

Once he called me and handed over a cheque for twenty-five 
thousand and asked me to organise relief work in the 
Rayalaseem^ districts of Andhra which had suffered from 
drought and famine. Later I learned that he had done this to 
keep me active and engaged, and to prevent me from going back 
to Madras. I completed that work in a month and a half. As 
soon as I returned to Delhi, the Prime Minister called me and 
said that he would like me to go to China on the first Indian 
goodwill delegation to be sent after India became a Republic. 
The delegation was leaving in the second week of May 1952 for 
six weeks. The leader was Vijayalakshmi Pandit. 

I accepted the assignment. The delegation spent six weeks in 
China, visiting the various provinces. I made a close study of the 
judicial system of China and also the minorities particularly 
their culture and social and economic activities. I submitted a 
report to the Prime Minister on the working of the Chinese 
judicial system, with special reference to the functioning of fami- 
ly courts. I sent a copy to the Finance Minister, who wrote me a 
letter in highly appreciative terms. 

I had been much impressed by the concept of family courts. I 
thought that for a country of India’s size, establishment of fami- 
ly courts as part of its judicial system would be of immense help 
in many ways. It would not only reduce the workload of the 
High Courts and the Supreme Court but also provide a good 
forum for preventing family break-ups and restoring happiness 
to men, women, and children, making it possible for them to re- 
main united. I had also the opportunity of studying the function- 
ing of family courts in Japan and in Russia. My admiration for 
such courts began to grow and I missed no chance of recom- 



mending this innovation under Indian conditions. I have noted 
that judges such as Chief Justice Dr. P.B. Gajendragadkar and 
Mr. Justice M.C. Chagla, who have seen the system working in 
some of these countries, have also recommended the setting up 
of family courts as part of the Indian judicial system. Alas, 
twenty-seven years have passed and not a step has been taken in 
this behalf though, according to reports, fifty thousand cases are 
pending in the Supreme Court and twenty to thirty thousand 
cases each in High Courts. 

After I returned from China in June 1952, Sri M.O. Mathai 
telephoned me one day at about nine in the morning and asked 
me to meet him in the Parliament House. Sri Mathai informed 
me that I was being appointed Governor of Madhya Pradesh 
and the recommendation to the President was waiting for the 
P.M.’s signature. He himself had told the Prime Minister that I 
was a young lady and should be given a challenging assignment 
instead of a gubernatorial post in which my talents would not be 
of any use. Pandit Nehru was himself then reconsidering the 
matter. What clinched the matter was, it seems, a note from a 
member of his Cabinet, whom he considered as the most 
charming of his colleagues, suggesting that I be appointed 
member of the Planning Commission with the charge of Social 
Services. This Cabinet colleague, it turned out, was none other 
than the Finance Minister. 

I was thus appointed a member of the Planning Commission 
in June 1952. There were five other members: Nehru, who was 
the Chairman, C.D. Deshmukh, V.T. Krishnamachari, 
Gulzarilal Nanda, and G.L. Mehta. I was given the charge of 
Social Services. 

It is a comprehensive subject. My responsibilities covered 
subjects related to several ministries such as Education, Health, 
Rehabilitation, Housing, Labour, Public Cooperation, and 
Social Welfare proper, including crime and criminal 
administration. Chintaman Deshmukh and I thus became 
colleagues in the Planning Commission, he in charge of Finance 

Extraordinary witness to an extraordinary marriage (22 January 1953) 

Chmtaman and I ( a , a High School function, March 1977) 



and I with Social Services. 

I joined the Planning Commission when the First Five Year 
Plan was already in the final stages of drafting and financial 
outlays had been finalised. To my surprise, I found that there 
was no provision as such for Social Welfare in the plan outlay. It 
would have been very difficult to secure any funds outside of the 
limits already finalised. But Deshmukh, although he belonged to 
the steelframe, had a humane approach and a constructive mind 
that could appreciate the viewpoint of others. He understood the 
problem that in the absence of any real assistance the social 
welfare institutions would not have any support and that it 
would be futile to express lip sympathy to the poor, the destitute, 
the orphans, and other handicapped persons while not providing 
for action in a realistic way. It was this view of the Finance 
Member that was responsible for the creation of the Central 
Social Welfare Board with a provision of forty million rupees 
which played a big role later in the servicing of voluntary welfare 
institutions. (In the second plan, the allotment for the Board was 
one hundred fifty million and in the third plan it was raised to 
two hundred eighty million plus a provision of thirty million for 
child welfare services.) Pandit Nehru appreciated Chintaman’s 
advice and accepted it. 

It was again C.D. Deshmukh’s foresight and appreciation of 
the need for giving a place to population control and family 
planning in the first plan, urged by me as Member-in-charge, 
that resulted in the provision of six million rupees. The family 
planning programme thus came to be officially recognized for 
the first time. Till then only a few voluntary agencies were 
running clinics with help from Lady Dhanwanti Rama Rau of 
the All India Family Planning Association, the Indian chapter of 
the International Family Planning Association. I appointed a 
committee, with Lady Rama Rau as Chairman, to go round the 
country and study the working of the existing family planning 
organizations - about one hundred of them - and to suggest 
suitable grants to enable them to discharge their functions more 



effectively. Five million out of the provision of six million rupees 
went to these voluntary organisations to strengthen their efforts; 
many of them would otherwise have had to close down. 

Deshmukh visited Madras on 17 August 1952 to inaugurate 
the Maternity and Labour Ward of the Andhra Mahila Sabha. 
The inauguration went off well. The programme included a 
reception at the Vanita Bala Vihar Park and a dinner at the 
Andhra Mahila Sabha premises at Luz Church Road in 
Mylapore. I remember that at dinner time I had a swollen foot, 
the result of a slip during the day. I had not paid much attention 
to it. Deshmukh noticed it, made anxious enquiries, and asked 
Dr. Natarajan and Dr. Ramamoorthy, who were connected with 
the Sabha’s activities and were present at the dinner, to take care 
of my foot. The next day, I went to see him off at the airport and 
presented him with a silver set of puja wares for his mother who, 
I had heard, was deeply religious-minded. I also gave him some 
idli and sambhar. 

One afternoon in November 1952 my telephone started to 
ring. My friend Sri P.S. Narayana Prasad, who had earlier 
worked with the Reserve Bank of India and was then working 
with the International Monetary Fund, and was staying as my 
guest, picked up the receiver and was surprised to hear the voice 
of his one-time boss - the Finance Minister. He gave the receiver 
to me. Deshmukh told me that his mother was staying with him 
and that he wanted to introduce me to her. Could I join them for 
tea at five-thirty the next day? I accepted the invitation. 

I did not attach much significance to this event, as I thought it 
was thoughtful of him to introduce to his mother a person who 
had presented her puja wares. But Prasad, who had known 
Deshmukh’s reserved nature, was surprised at the call and 
promptly spread the news among his former colleagues before 
going back to his post in Washington. 

On 5 November I went to the Finance Minister’s house at 
Willingdon Crescent. His sister-in-law Kamalini and niece Usha 
were also there. After tea, we two took a walk in the garden. We 



were talking about the draft of the First Five Year Plan. He then 
startled me by saying that he wanted to resign from the Planning 
Commission. I told him that he should not resign, as his 
presence would help the smooth running of the Commission’s 
work. He said he was over-burdened with work and felt very 
tired, and asked me if I could help him. I said he could always 
count on my help whenever he wanted, still not knowing what 
was in his mind. And then he said: “You can fill my life.” I was 
flabbergasted and asked for time for my answer. 

Next day I telephoned his P.A., Sri Swaminathan, for an 
appointment with the Finance Minister. 

I had considered his proposal in all its aspects. Though I had 
great admiration for him, a thought kept nagging me. When I 
met him that evening, I told him that I was almost a rustic; and 
he had the reputation of being the best-dressed man of India and 
had developed refined western manners. Could we be 
compatible? His answer was to take me to an eucalyptus tree 
and inscribe on its bark in Sanskrit a proposal of marriage, 
which I accepted. 

Soon after, he went to London to attend the Commonwealth 
Prime Ministers’ Conference representing the Prime Minister. 

After he returned in December, we went to Jawaharlal Nehru 
to break the news. He jumped in joy when we told him of our 
decision to get married. He said we would make an ideal couple. 
We wanted to keep the news secret yet, but he wanted to inform 
at least his daughter, Indu. She, too, was very happy. 

Chintaman and I had thought that it would not look good for 
both of us to continue in the Planning Commission after our 
marriage. We were afraid that a husband-wife team in a body of 
only five or six members might bring the Prime Minister a bad 
name. So I offered to resign and carried with me the letter of my 
resignation to the Prime Minister when we went to announce the 
news to him. But he ridiculed the idea, saying that Chintaman 
had not appointed me to the Planning Commission. 

Our wedding was fixed for 22 January 1953. Jawaharlal 



Nehru was the first witness at the civil marriage which took 
place at five-thirty in the evening at 33 Prithviraj Road, where I 
had moved after joining the Planning Commission. Smt. Sucheta 
Kripalani and my brother Narayana Rao were the other witnes- 
ses. The function was also attended by Smt. Vijayalakshmi Pan- 
dit, Smt. Krishna Hutheesing, and Smt. Indira Gandhi. 

Chintaman had informed his family about the marriage only a 
couple of days earlier. He had telephoned to Usha, his niece, for 
whom he had great affection. Usha told him that they thought it 
was going to happen sooner or later! Kamalini, his sister-in-law, 
telephoned to congratulate him and sent a pair of bangles and 
black beads with mangalsutra, traditionally worn by every 
Hindu married woman. My mother was very happy at the news, 
although she had some worry whether our different back- 
grounds might not clash. 

After marriage I shifted from Prithviraj Road to 1 Willingdon 
Crescent. We visited the President of India, Dr. Rajendra 
Prasad, to seek his blessings. He presented us with a silver plate. 
Smt. Vijayalakshmi Pandit gave us a dozen silver glasses and 
Smt. Krishna Hutheesing a set of six silver and copper 
plates — a Tanjore speciality. Several other friends and well- 
wishers showered their affection on us with greetings and pre- 

The marriage was widely hailed by the Press the next day. 
For nearly a week the newspapers and leading magazines car- 
ried the news with pictures. 

We both had official engagements the next day — 23 
January - in Bombay. The following day we left Bombay 
for Poona and stayed with Dr. G.V. Desai, Chintaman’s 

From Poona I went on a tour of four districts - Sholapur, 
Ahmednagar, Bijapur, and Nanded - to organize famine relief 
work at the instance of the Prime Minister who had given a 
cheque for twenty-five thousand rupees for the purpose. Sri S.K. 
Patil, the Congress stalwart of Bombay, also gave me a cheque 



for fifty thousand for the relief work. As I was a member of the 
Planning Commission with the status of a Minister of State, 
senior State officials accompanied me on the tour. During the 
tour I collected about seventy-five thousand rupees. Thus in all 
we were able to spend about one hundred fifty thousand rupees 
on relief work. I had a statement of accounts of the expenditure 
prepared and got it audited. Sri S.K. Patil told me later that he 
was pleasantly surprised to receive the accounts, as I was 
perhaps the first person to render the accounts so fast in such 

My husband returned from Poona to Delhi as he had to 
attend to work in connection with the preparation of the Union 
Budget for 1953-54. From Maharashtra I went to Hyderabad, 
where my husband joined me. We stayed for a few days with 
Leela and Madhava Rao Baji at No. 1, R.T.C. Workshop 
compound. My mother was with Leela at the time. 

That was how we enjoyed our honeymoon — in famine relief 
work and Budget preparation! 

When we returned to Delhi, we were given affectionate 
receptions by friends. The inimitable Shankar’s Weekly, 1 
remember, carried a cartoon showing me and my husband, 
some industrialists in front of him and some poor people in front 
of me; his hand in the pocket of the industrialists and mine, in 
turn, in his! 

It is interesting to recall that while I was young I had 
developed some hostility towards Indian I.C.S. officers. They 
had come to acquire the reputation of putting down freedom 
fighters in the interest of their British masters. They were 
thought to be dragging their feet in the implementation of 
progressive legislation. My another aversion was their wives, 
who used to organize exclusive clubs away from the city and 
lived lives of their own, totally alien to Indian culture. 

With these prejudices I had never imagined that one day I 
would come to fancy a member of the I.C.S. to the point of 
marrying him. But Chintaman is not of the usual run of the steel 



frame of my imagination. He is not only humane and 
understanding but also a Sanskrit scholar, fully acquainted with 
the Vedas and the Upanishads and rooted in Indian culture. 

V. As Members of the Planning 


Chintaman and I were able to make our contribution as 
members of the Planning Commission, severally, and sometimes 
jointly, to the promotion of socially useful activities in several 

My first contribution was of a negative character. Four days 
after my joining the Planning Commission, I received a file 
from the Ministry of External Affairs. I was shocked to find that 
about one hundred American families were coming to India for 
undertaking rural welfare work. The matter had already reached 
a stage when the visas were about to be issued. I was convinced 
that India did not need the services of foreigners to work in our 
villages. They were not qualified to undertake this as they 
neither knew much about India, nor did they speak the 
languages of our people. I therefore thought I should not allow 
this proposal to materialise. I put down my views on the file and 
sent it to the other members of the Commission for their 
comments. I got a reply from the Finance Minister the next day 
in which he said he agreed with me and that it was a mistake 
that the scheme was agreed to in such a simplistic manner. I was 
happy and proud that all the members of the Commission, 
including the Prime Minister, agreed with me. The proposal was 
thus dropped. 

Coming to the positive side, I was able, as mentioned earlier, 
to secure the commitment of the Government of India for the 



control of population growth and the concepts of family 
planning and the small family norm. Chintaman’s help in this 
effort was immense, as the Health Minister, Rajkumari Amrit 
Kaur, was against giving official recognition to the programme. 

I was also able to get several important health subjects put on 
the official list, such as the campaigns against cancer, T.B., 
leprosy, and filaria. Although no provision could be made in the 
first plan for these campaigns, some assistance was provided to 
voluntary agencies engaged in this task. 

Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy, who was a pioneer ot social 
welfare work in Madras and a builder of many welfare 
institutions, had started a Cancer Institute in Madras. This was 
the only institute of its kind in the South. She was my close 
friend, although much older. She once mentioned to me that she 
was not able to collect more than ten thousand rupees a year by 
organising charity cultural programmes and bringing out 
souvenirs with advertisements. She asked me if I could help in 
getting a government grant for the Institute. I mentioned this to 
Chintaman. We both then talked to the Health Minister, 
Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, who was in full agreement with us that 
the Institute deserved help but feared that there was no provision 
for this in the Health Ministry’s budget. I suggested to her that 
she could sanction it from the discretionary fund of her ministry. 
But she thought that other plan projects might suffer. Then 
Chintaman, as Finance Minister, came to our rescue. He told 
the Health Minister that if she was short of that sum, he would 
make it up for her. We were thus able to help Dr. Muthulakshmi 
Reddy in her efforts to strengthen the Institute, which has now 
come to be considered as one of the foremost Cancer Institutes 
not only in India but the world over. 

Though filaria and leprosy were mentioned in the chapter on 
Health of the plan document, there was no specific budget for 
mounting programmes to control them. But as Chairman of the 
Central Social Welfare Board I was able to give grants to 
strengthen the efforts of voluntary agencies engaged in fighting 



these diseases. Later came the national programmes for the 
control and eradication of communicable diseases. 

In the list of priorities under Health, I was also able to include 
a provision for potable drinking water in rural areas, as well as 
sewage and night soil disposal in rural areas for environmental 

In the area of nursing there was at the time only one cadre of 
nurses, i.e. the general nurse, the minimum academic 
qualification for becoming one being matriculation. According 
to the reports available, there was an acute dearth of trained 
nurses in the villages, not to speak of doctors. I felt that it would 
be ideal to provide at least one trained nurse for a group of ten 
villages. The Health Minister, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, was 
closely concerned with this problem, and wanted to move a Bill 
in Parliament for the Auxiliary Nurse Mid-Wives Training 
Scheme. I canvassed support for the scheme. The Bill was 
eventually passed. But its implementation became difficult as 
most of the State Health Ministers thought that the new scheme 
would bring down the nursing standards: the minimum 
educational qualification for getting training as auxiliary nurse- 
midwife was to he only eighth standard. But Dr. B.C. Roy, 
Chief Minister of West Bengal, who was an eminent doctor 
himself, was in favour of the scheme. I remember that when this 
matter came up for discussion in the Planning Commission, 
Prime Minister Nehru remarked: “What are the standards you 
are talking about when there are no services at all!” Chintaman 
and I agreed with the Prime Minister. Ultimately the training of 
the junior cadre of Auxiliary Nurse Mid-Wives (A.N.M.) got 
started. I helped a great deal in the implementation of the 
community development programme undertaken by the 
Government of India as a part of the First Five Year Plan. 

Another important development was the establishment of the 
All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi. Rajkumari 
Amrit Kaur saw the need for an all-India institute in the capital 
city to help and strengthen the research and training facilities for 



the provision of health services. But many States were opposed 
to this idea as they wanted the proposed institute to be located in 
their own territory. The main opposition came from Dr. Sushila 
Nayyar, the Health Minister of Delhi State, who felt that 
Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi, which was coming up, would be 
anyway providing services on an all-India basis. The matter 
came up before the Planning Commission, where I pleaded the 
idea of starting the institute in Delhi. The proposal was carried 
through, and Finance Minister Deshmukh provided forty million 
rupees to the Health Ministry for the establishment of the All 
India Institute of Medical Sciences. The Institute has by now 
achieved international reputation. 

I was also connected with the National Small Savings 
Campaign as Chairman of the National Small Savings 
Committee. The idea underlying the scheme was to mobilise our 
own national resources and to make even the poorest man a 
partner in the endeavour for planned progress. People could 
deposit even their gold, which would go back to them with 
interest after the maturity period. One day I was surprised to 
find Prime Minister Nehru coming to me and handing over a few 
gold pieces in the shape of photo frames and watches. 
“Durgabai,” he said, “you keep these for your savings 
campaign; this is my contribution.” I was greatly helped in the 
savings campaign work by Smt. Achamma Matthai and Smt. 
Laxmi Mazumdar. 

The Relief and Rehabilitation Committee had been formed 
following the partition of the country, with Lady Mountbatten 
as Chairman. When she was leaving India, the Prime Minister 
asked me to shoulder this responsibility. He also gave me a 
report on the working of the Committee, which showed a deficit 
of fifty thousand rupees. The President of India, Dr. Rajendra 
Prasad, was President of the organisation. 

I accepted the responsibility. I toured all the districts of 
Punjab, the worst affected State in the wake of partition, along 
with my husband and organised relief and rehabilitation camps. 



By the time I Left the Committee, it had not only wiped out its 
deficit but had acquired assets worth more than five lakhs. 
Nearly one thousand Muslim women brought from Pakistan to 
India and an equal number taken from India to Pakistan were all 
rehabilitated. I was greatly helped in this work by Mridula 
Sarabhai and Prema Thapar. 

As Education was in my charge as Member (Social 
Services), I was responsible for the drawing up of a separate 
section on # Women’s Education in the chapter on Education in 
the First Five Year Plan. I had noticed that there were three 
major obstacles to the education of women: 

1. The fact that girls had to leave their parental homes after 
marriage discouraged parents from educating their 
daughters. Knowing that they could not obtain any “returns” 
from investment in the education of their daughters, parents 
shied away from sending them to schools. They had to spend 
on their dowries in any case. That obligation was all that the 
parents were willing to bear. 

2. Even where parents were indulgent enough to send their 
daughters to schools, girls tended to lapse into ignorance 
because they had little opportunity to utilise their learning in 

3. Social and cultural prejudices against the schooling of girls 
inhibited their education even if they had relatively 
progressive parents. 

These obstacles led to poor enrolment of girls at school and, 
what was equally sad, a heavy drop-out of those who were 
enrolled. I therefore advocated in the section on Women’s 
Education the introduction of condensed courses of education 
for women. Its features were: first, the seven years’ course was 
condensed into four years; second, the subjects offered were 
those which were likely to interest girls more, and likely to equip 
them more realistically for employment; third, students doing 



the course were to be given a stipend throughout the period of 
their study. 

This led to the starting of hundreds of condensed courses of 
education for women who had to stop their education for several 
reasons, e.g. when they became widows. Thousands of women 
had thereby been helped to attain the matriculation level of 

Subsequently, when I was appointed in 1959 as Chairman of 
the National Committee on Girls’ and Women’s Education 
constituted by the Government of India, I had the opportu- 
nity of studying and making a comprehensive set of 
recommendations. These recommendations were accepted, 
among them being the establishment of a National Council for 
Women’s Education. I was appointed the Council’s first 
Chairman and held the office from 1 960 to 1 962 in addition to 
my duties as Chairman, Central Social Welfare Board. One of 
the recommendations I made as Chairman of the National 
Committee on Girls’ and Women’s Education was in regard to 
the quantum of grant to be made in aid of women’s hostels 
attached to colleges and universities. Though in the case of boys’ 
hostels the university and the college had to contribute 50 per 
cent as matching contribution, it was recommended that in the 
case of girls’ hostels the matching contribution be fixed at only 
25 per cent, the remaining 75 per cent coming from the 
University Grants Commission. This recommendation was 
accepted by the U.G.C. when Chintaman was its Chairman. 

The special interests ' of Chintaman, as member of the 
Planning Commission, were the improvement of administration 
for implementing the plans, and of the planning process itself. 

Chintaman was responsible for the establishment of the 
Indian Institute of Public Administration in Delhi which has 
now come to be a major training centre for not only Indian 
administrators but also administrators from other developing 
countries. In consultation with the Ford Foundation, the 
Finance Minister had invited Paul Appleby, of the Syracuse 



University in Buffalo, U.S.A., to study and report on Indian 
administration and administrative procedures. The proposal for 
setting up an Institute of Public Administration was one of the 
recommendations of Appleby. Chintaman was associated with 
the Indian Institute of Public Administration as Vice-President 
for several years. 

He was also Chairman of the Court of Governors of the 
Administrative Staff College of India, in Hyderabad, for over 
thirteen yeqyrs. Dr. John Matthai was the first Chairman, and 
when he was retiring due to ill health he suggested that 
Chintaman should succeed him. The Staff College has 
established itself as a reputed management training and 
consultancy establishment on the model of the one at Henly-on- 
Thames in the U.K. 

Another institution whose growth was assisted by Chintaman 
is the Indian Statistical Institute. Its Director at the time was Dr. 
Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis, an internationally-known 
statistical expert. Chintaman happened to meet Dr. 
Mahalanobis in Calcutta in the year 1920 after the latter’s 
return from Cambridge, and their acquaintance ripened into 
close friendship. Though Chintaman was not a statistician, he 
understood and appreciated the need for such an institute in the 
context of planned development. Pandit Nehru, who was a 
contemporary of Dr. P.C. Mahalanobis in the U.K., also 
recognised the role that this Institution could play in national 
development. Chintaman was the President of the Institute from 
1945 to 1964. After our marriage, Chintaman and I used to visit 
Calcutta both in our respective official capacities and as 
personal friends of Dr. Mahalanobis and his enlightened wife 
Nirmal Kumari Mahalanobis, whom I used to call “Rani Didi”. 
Whenever we visited Calcutta in connection with conferences 
and seminars we invariably stayed with them in their charming 
house “Amrapali”, which was redolent of the memories of the 
late poet Dr. Rabindranath Tagore. Professor Mahalanobis was 
for some time Private Secretary to the poet. The flowering 



magnolia tree in the front lawns of our house “Rachana” in 
Hyderabad always reminds me of Rani Didi who had given us 
the plant. 

A very important change was initiated within the Planning 
Commission by Chintaman as Finance Minister. Until then 
there was no procedure which required a member of the 
Commission to send an important file for information to the 
other members, or to let each member know what was 
happening on matters under his/her charge: whether ministries 
were implementing the projects on schedule, and whether they 
were spending the money as allocated. Once the Planning 
Commission decided and finalised the plans and made 
provisions for them, it was the responsibility of the concerned 
ministries to implement them. As per the procedure sponsored 
by Chintaman, it was obligatory for the concerned ministry to 
inform the Planning Commission of the progress and the 
Member in charge should satisfy himself that the planned targets 
were being fulfilled. This was the main reason for the present- 
day importance and status of the Planning Commission. 

VI. Social Reform and Welfare Activity 

As soon as the Ministers of Health and Education came to 
know that, as Member of the Planning Commission, I had 
allotted forty million rupees for the Central Social Welfare 
Board for helping the voluntary social welfare organisations, 
both claimed that his ministry was the right one to implement 
the programme and, therefore, the allotment should be given to 

In a note to the Commission, I made out a case that the 
Central Social Welfare Board should be an autonomous body 
and that the usual governmental procedures, derived as they 
were from the East India Company days, would not answer the 
needs of the situation. Also as assistance to the social welfare 
organisations had to be given expeditiously as many good 
institutions were in danger of closing down for want of financial 
aid, only an autonomous body could do it. The Commission 
accepted my proposal. 

According to the procedure then in vogue, the unanimous 
decisions of the Planning Commission were to be accepted by 
the ministries; in the case of difference of opinion in the 
Commission, the matter had to go to the Cabinet for decision. In 
spite of the unanimous decision to set up an autonomous 
Central Social Welfare Board, the Health Minister insisted that 
the funds allotted to the Board should be administered by Health 



As it was originally my proposal, I thought that I should in- 
tervene and sent a note to the Prime Minister suggesting the 
reasons for constituting the Board as an autonomous body free 
from ministerial interference. I also stated that I would rather 
surrender the forty million rupees than allotting it to any par- 
ticular ministry. I requested the Prime Minister to place the mat- 
ter before the Cabinet. I sent a copy of the note to the Finance 
Minister. I came to know later that the Finance Minister had 
asked his Secretary to draw up a note to the Cabinet to the ef- 
fect that, if necessary, the Finance Ministry would administer 
the funds allotted for the benefit of the voluntary organisations. 

I received a letter from the Prime Minister acknowledging my 
note and saying that he was calling a special meeting of the 
Cabinet to have the matter discussed and that he would let me 
know its decision. After a week I was informed that the Cabinet 
had decided that the Board should be autonomous in its working 
and that neither the Ministry of Health nor the Ministry of 
Education would control it as they never claimed any allocation 
for assisting the voluntary social welfare organisations until this 
specific provision was made by the Planning Commission. 

However, for reasons of answerability to Parliament, the 
Board was placed under the Ministry of Education. Pandit 
Nehru enquired of me whether this would meet my point. I 
thanked him for the decision, as, for all practical purposes, the 
Board would be an autonomous one. 

After the First Five Year Plan was drawn up towards the 
close of 1952, I had been wanting to resign from the Planning 
Commission in order to devote my time to the implementation 
of the several schemes which I was responsible for sponsoring. 
But Nehru asked me to work as full-time Chairman of the 
Central Social Welfare Board. This was in 1954. As I had 
already been working as its honorary Chairman since its 
inception on 14 August 1953, I accepted Panditji’s suggestion. 

The Prime Minister did me another honour. As member of the 
Planning Commission, I was a member of the National 



Development Council, which included the Cabinet Ministers, the 
members of the Planning Commission and the Chief Ministers. 
Even after I had ceased to be member of the Planning 
Commission, the Prime Minister asked me, as Chairman of the 
Central Social Welfare Board, to continue on the Council. 
Panditji also asked Maulana Azad, the Education Minister, to 
give me the status of Minister of State in my new capacity I 
worked as full-time Chairman of the Central Social Welfare 
Board for fhore than eight years till 1962. 

For a proper appreciation of the formation of the Central 
Social Welfare Board it is necessary to know the historical 
background of “social reform” and “social work” in India and 
the distinction between the two. 

To draw a distinction between the two is not easy. Social 
reform aims essentially at change, a change that may sometimes 
involve the basic values and the social institutions in the 
community; while social work relates primarily to welfare 
activities undertaken within the limits set by existing values. 
Social reform aims at changing the pattern of life of the whole 
community, while social work aims at meeting the needs of 
individuals and groups within the existing pattern. 

Both social reform and welfare work are exemplified in my 
own life’s work. Much of what is today recognised as social 
work has crystallised out of the vigorous activity of reformers of 
the nineteenth century and the early part of this century. Then 
again, all work relating to the betterment of the traditionally 
under-privileged members of society involves a change of values 
in that society. Fighting for the equality of rights of women, 
pleading for a better deal for Harijans, and launching a 
movement for a change in the manner of handling juvenile 
delinquents are activities that can be placed under social reform. 
Running an institution for rescued women, organisation of 
community services in a Harijan colony, provision of shelter and 
education for neglected and delinquent children are instances of 
social work. Ordinarily, the two activities call for different types 



of leadership and personnel. Social reform is the natural field of 
the volunteer, and social work is increasingly entrusted to the 
professional worker. 

Service of the needy is a part of a long tradition in India. As in 
other family-centred societies, the care of the needy was built 
into the structure of social institutions. Religion emphasised the 
values of charity, philanthropy, and mutual help. The giving of 
alms, the feeding and the care of destitutes were considered acts 
of religious merit. The temples gave shelter to the homeless. 
Social institutions also provided mechanisms to meet the needs 
of the old, the sick, and other helpless sections of the 
community. The joint family provided for the care of aged 
members and for the physically handicapped, the chronically 
ailing, and the mentally deficient. Caste and community councils 
were often responsible for individuals in need of help. The 
economic system itself was governed by social customs and the 
feudal employers did care for their employees though in a 
paternalistic way. However, these social mechanisms and their 
customary sanctions could only be effective in a small rural 
community with intimate face-to-face contacts. 

With the advent of British rule, the Indian social scene saw 
the rise of three distinct forces that acted and reacted on each 
other, viz., Christian missionary endeavour, the reaction thereto 
of the Indian religious and social structure, and the impact of the 
educational and economic systems introduced by the English. 

The impact of new ideas began in 1 780 with the establishment 
of the Serampore Mission in Bengal. To their evangelical efforts, 
the missionaries brought the conviction that many religious and 
social reforms were necessary in the Hindu social structure, 
especially with regard to child marriage, polygamy, female 
infanticide, sati, and forbidding of widow remarriage. They 
made a frontal attack on the caste system and tried to highlight 
the innate equality taught in Christianity. Most of the early 
social welfare institutions were established by Christian 
missionaries and it was only in later years that the initiative in 



the welfare field was taken by other missionary organisations, 
by individual philanthropists, and, lastly, by the state. 

It was inevitable that the work of the Christian missionaries 
would arouse a measure of defensive reaction. The first person 
whose life and work are of interest in such a survey is Raja Ram 
Mohun Roy. As a religious reformer, educationist, and social 
worker, he was the symbol of the effort of the Indian mind to 
face the challenge of transition and to arrive at a synthesis of the 
currents and cross-currents in Indian thought and ways of life. 
Through his journals, he analysed the effects of British 
economic policy upon the Indian rural economy. In an effort to 
strengthen Hinduism against the criticism of Christian 
missionaries, he advocated a return to the purity of thought 
contained in the Vedas and the Upanishads. As a social 
reformer, he pleaded for the abolition of caste distinctions and of 
the practice of sati. Founder of the Brahmo Samaj, he also 
established many institutions of modem education. 

The religious and social reforms that he initiated set the pat- 
tern for similar activities in other parts of the country for nearly 
half-a-century. In Bengal, he was followed by Dwarkanath 
Tagore, Devendranath Tagore, and Keshab Chandra Sen. The 
Brahmo Samaj entered into the fields of famine relief, education 
for girls, emancipation of women, and the movement for en- 
couraging temperance and charity. In western India — par- 
ticularly Bombay and Maharastra - social life was influenced by 
similar religious and social reform movements. In 1849, the 
Paramhansa Sabha was organised in Maharastra to fight for 
caste reform. In 1861, Justice M.G. Ranade helped to set up the 
Widow Marriage Association and in 1870 he helped to found 
the Sarvajanic Sabha. In 1882, Pandita Ramabai, an Indian 
Christian missionary, established the Arya Mahila Samaj. 
Jyotiba Phule, a social worker and a campaigner for caste 
reform, organised several social work institutions, orphanages, 
and schools for girls. In Bombay, Dr. R.G. Bhandarkar and 
Justice Ranade established the Prarthana Samaj, on the lines of 



the Brahmo Samaj. At about the same time, similar ideas on 
social reform were popularised by the Muslim reformer. Sir 
Syed Ahmed Khan. In 1875, he founded an educational institu- 
tion which developed into the Aligarh Muslim University of to- 
day. His philosophy, influenced by western liberal and 
democratic traditions, aroused a measure of orthodox opposi- 

These leaders of public opinion were persons influenced by 
western thought who, at the same time, were conscious of the 
challenge this thought constituted to the existing religious and 
social customs. Their attempt was to show that Hinduism and 
Islam, in their pure form, did not suffer from any blemishes. All 
that was required was to shed the extraneous “impurities” ac- 
quired with time. In this light, social reform was partially in the 
nature of a defensive reaction against the onslaughts of alien 
religion and culture. This defence took different forms. Apart 
from the effort at reviving the Indian religious and social struc- 
ture in its original healthy condition, a parallel effort was 
directed towards putting up institutions that might provide an 
alternative to the welfare services provided by Christian mis- 

The Brahmo Samaj was characterised by reform measures 
such as the abolition of image worship and emphasis on reason. 
Its members attempted to organise their lives on a rational basis, 
discarding all superstitious practices. The Arya Samaj, founded 
by Swami Dayanand Saraswati, while giving up image worship 
and sub-castes did not assimilate rationalism as a way of life. Its 
militant activities were directed towards counteracting the 
proselytising work of Christian missionaries; it rendered great 
service in the field of education in northern India. The 
Ramakrishna Mission was named after the sage who inspired 
Swami Vivekananda. Founded by the latter in 1897, its 
organisational pattern was modelled on the lines of Christian 
missions. To a much greater extent than in the Brahmo Samaj or 
the Arya Samaj, service was a major function of the 



Ramakrishna Mission. 

The British educator in his turn introduced a new pattern of 
thinking based on rationalism, democracy, and liberalism. While 
the work of the missionaries aroused a defensive reaction, the 
rationalistic way of thinking, linked with modern science, had a 
great appeal to the Indian intellectual. The conventions and 
norms of the joint family and the inequities of the caste system 
could no longer be reconciled with the individualistic and liberal 
ways of thinking adopted by the newly educated middle class. 

Equally significant changes were effected in the economic life 
of the country. The self-sufficient rural economy was gradually 
disturbed and villagers began to migrate in increasing numbers 
to the new industrial towns. The trend towards urbanisation 
weakened the customary obligations and, instead, gave rise to 
contractual relations and to the attendant problems of 
destitution, drinking, exploitation of women and children, slums, 
etc. However, the same trend also served to strengthen the 
democratic and liberal traditions and to heighten the awareness 
of the need for education and equality of rights for women. 

These new ideas took firm shape among a school of thought 
based on secular-liberal traditions. In the last two decades of the 
nineteenth century emerged a band of social reformers working 
in different parts of the country. They included Bhandarkar, 
Kolkatkar, C.Y. Chintamani, S. Subramanya Iyer, K. 
Veeresalingam Pantulu, Narendra Nath Sen, Lala Baij Nath, 
and Ram Kali Chaudhari. They based their views not on the 
sastras but on intellectual conviction. Though they did not form 
themselves into any standing body, they met between the years 
1880 and 1900 in fourteen “Social Conferences”. They, too, 
were men of faith and belief, but their faith was based on the 
substratum of reason. 

From the beginning of the twentieth century, the rationalistic- 
humanistic tradition came to be established as an independent 
force. In Maharastra, Gopal Ganesh Agarkar sacrificed 
popularity and goodwill in his efforts to establish reason, and 



not religious sentiments as the motive force for social reform. 
Although he did not gain an immediate following, his life and 
writings left a lasting impress on social thinkers and workers of 
succeeding generations. Agarkar was followed by Gopal 
Krishna Gokhale. The latter, though a rationalist, was a believer. 
As a moderate liberal, he broke away from his radical political 
colleague, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, in order to concentrate on 
social reform. In 1905, he founded the Servants of India Society. 
This was the first secular organisation dedicated to social 
service. It counted among its life-members G.K. Deddhar, N.M. 
Joshi, V.S. Srinivasa Sastri, and Pandit H.N. Kunzru. Gokhale 


and his colleagues began the tradition of establishing facts as the 
first step in mobilising public opinion in favour of social reform. 
Each campaign was based on a closely argued case built up on 
an objective collection of facts. 

Such a strongly intellectual tradition could not expect to gain 
a mass appeal. Its plea for reform reached only the newspaper- 
reading intelligentsia and not illiterate masses whose pattern of 
life it sought to reform. Another reason that prevented the 
Servants of India Society and similar social woik organisations 
from becoming major movements was the preoccupation of the 
people and their leaders with the growing nationalist movement. 
The breach between Gokhale and Tilak was significant. The 
educated middle class gave their support to Tilak in his fight for 
political independence rather than to the social reformer, whose 
appeal in the context was inevitably feeble. 

The appearance of Garidhiji on the Indian public scene in 
1920 provided a bridge between the social reformers and the 
political rebels. He was not only aware of the more immediate 
political and economic problems but also sensitive to the subtler 
social and psychological crises through which the country was 
passing. His “constructive programme” was a movement both 
for economic betterment and for improving the tenor of social 
life. To stress the common duties of men and women, and not 
equal rights of women alone, was characteristic of his approach 



to social reforms. So also he did not teach in terms of the rights 
of Harijans but of the duties of the higher castes towards them. 
He believed that whereas emphasis on rights divides, emphasis 
on duties unites. His special contribution in the organisational 
field was to set up appropriate national organisations with dedi- 
cated personnel to solve specific problems, e.g. the Harijan 
Sevak Sangh, the All-India Village Industries Association, and 
the Nai Talim Sangh (basic education movement). 

Besides founding and supporting institutions, Gandhiji 
inspired a l&rge number of local social reform activities. The first 
half of the twentieth century, when he lived and worked amongst 
us, marks a great epoch in the social reform movement in India. 
The real secret of his influence lay in his appeal to the heart 
rather than to the mind. This was a break with the intellectual 
tradition set by the social reformers of the early twentieth 

The organisation of training programmes for welfare workers 
has served, however, to maintain the intellectual tradition of 
social work. The first attempt in this direction was made by the 
Social Service League, Bombay, in the nineteen-twenties. The 
League organised a short orientation course for volunteer 
workers, but with no intention of training them to take up paid 
position. A major departure from the tradition that identified 
social work with voluntary activity was the establishment in 
1936 of the Sir Dorabji Ta!ta Graduate School of Social Work 
as the professional training institution. 

But the professional social worker, however well equipped, 
cannot fill the role played by the lay volunteer. Unlike Raja Ram 
Mohun Roy, Gokhale, and Gandhiji, the professional workers 
cannot be expected to serve as pioneers and crusaders of social 
reform. They are humbler persons equipped with certain 
knowledge and skills to handle specific problems of institutional 
management and of inter-personal and inter-group relations. At 
worst, they are persons doing a job only to earn a living; at best, 
they are persons with a sense of social purpose and pride in the 



profession to which they belong. It would be wrong to presume 
that training is necessarily antithetical to the fervour and drive 
that come from emotional conviction. With training, a zealous 
worker can become more effective; with zeal, a trained worker 
can acquire direction and purpose. Today the professional social 
workers are a young and small group in the country. But they 
are a growing group. While the standards and types of training 
are still being evolved, and idea of professional training in social 
work has come to stay. 

Let me turn now to the role of the state. The -state has a 
specific role to play in the field of welfare. State action can be 
either restricted to the enactment of social legislation or 
extended in a more positive manner to the provision of services 
for the welfare of individuals and under-privileged groups. In 
India the Constitution, in the chapter on Directive Principles, 
places on the state a wide range of obligations in the sphere of 
social welfare. This is what has led to the establishment of Social 
Welfare Advisory Boards in the States in addition to the Central 
Board of Social Welfare at the Centre. 

The Five Year Plans draw a distinction between the minimum 
“social services” provided by the state for the entire community 
and “social welfare” services intended for individuals and 
groups in need of special attention. On this basis, health and 
education come under the category of minimum services. These 
services have still to be extended to the entire population, and 
voluntary agencies try to supplement governmental effort in the 
fields of health and education. 

The Ministry of Rehabilitation was set up in the wake of the 
partition of the country to cope with the problems of the 
physical, social, and economic rehabilitation of displaced 
persons. The programme was mainly directed towards economic 
rehabilitation and housing. The process has been completed in 
respect of refugees from West Pakistan. The problem of refugees 
from East Pakistan proved to be continuous and complex. 

The responsibility for the welfare of Scheduled Castes and 



Tribes has been assigned to the Ministry of Home Affairs at the 
Centre. Under a separate Article of the Constitution, the 
Commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes is 
required to report to the President on the progress registered in 
the welfare of these special groups. 

Until the creation of a Department of Social Welfare which 
has subsequently become a full-fledged Ministry, the Ministry of 
Home Affairs was also entrusted with responsibility for subjects 
such as correctional administration, vagrancy, juvenile 
delinquency, suppression of immoral traffic in women, and 
programmes of after-care and moral and social hygiene. 

The Ministry of Community Development and subsequently 
the Department of Rural Development have been entrusted with 
the intensive and comprehensive development of economic and 
social aspects of life in rural areas. 

Following the establishment of the Central Social Welfare 
Board in August 1953 to administer the programme of grants- 
in-aid to existing voluntary welfare organisations and to sponsor 
and assist the development of new welfare services through non- 
official organisations, the State governments, at the instance of 
the Board, set up Social Welfare Advisory Boards. Project 
Implementing Committees provided the standing machinery at 
the district level for the planning and execution of welfare 
extension projects in rural areas. 

The significance of the establishment of the Central Social 
Welfare Board lies in the fact that it brought voluntary effort on 
the official map of India. Though there were nearly twelve 
thousand organisations, spread all over the country and manned 
by devoted social workers, they depended mainly on charity and 
public donations for their maintenance. Every flood, every 
earthquake, every famine, and every war left thousands of 
destitutes, deserted widows, orphans, blind, deaf and dumb, and 
delinquents. So long as the state was a “Police State” it was 
concerned mainly with the law and order situation and did not 
concern itself with the welfare of the people. Patriotic and 



devoted men and women came forward to organise relief for the 
unfortunate. Some of the Princes and charitable trusts helped 
these organisations but they had no steady and reliable sources 
of funding. After India became independent in 1947, the princely 
states were integrated with the result that this source of financial 
assistance dried up. The system of zamindari was abolished and 
this, too, had its impact on charitable organisations. Many of 
them were on the verge of closing down. 

It was at this time that I joined the Planning Commission. The 
first thing that I did was to study the conditions of the existing 
institutions, the sources of their funds, and the problems they 
confronted. I represented to Prime Minister Nehru and Finance 
Minister Deshmukh that there was no use talking about the need 
for bringing up the weaker sections of society and giving better 
status to women unless we had a budgetary provision to help 
them and to save the institutions working for their welfare from 
being closed down. My plea was accepted by the Planning 

When the Kasturba Gandhi Memorial Trust was established 
in 1944 I had been placed in charge of collecting funds and 
organising the Trust’s work among rural women in Andhra. 
Later I was appointed a Trustee. The Kasturba Memorial 
Centres were among the few voluntary institutions that func- 
tioned in the late forties in rural areas. Our rural women, though 
illiterate and backward and custom-ridden, are very intelligent 
and active. They work along with their menfolk in agricultural 
operations from the state of preparing the land and sowing seeds 
to harvesting the crop and storing it in godowns. They also take 
care of the cows and buffaloes and help in the production of 
milk. Besides, they tend kitchen gardens and transport the 
produce to urban areas to supplement the income of their 
families. In spite of their illiteracy, they act as equal partners 
with their husbands. 

I therefore took special interest, as Chairman of the Central 
Social Welfare Board, in promoting welfare work among rural 
women. Steps were taken to establish thirty thousand rural 



welfare centres covering one-and-a-half lakh villages with one 
centre for five villages. A Grama Sevika (village woman welfare 
worker) was posted in each centre, as also a Craft Teacher and 
an Auxiliary Nurse Midwife. The scheme became so popular 
that many donors came forward offering buildings and land. 
An important pay-off of the scheme was that it increased the 
employment and education opportunities for women. As 
Mukhya Sevikas, Midwives, and Craft Teachers were needed for 
the scheme, women came forward to equip themselves through 
education a*id training for this work. The scheme also helped to 
improve the liaison between voluntary bodies and the govern- 
ment in matters of social welfare. This came about through the 
institution of committees established to evaluate implementation. 

These centres were spread all over the country from the 
Himalayas to Cape Comirin. One of the purposes of the 
constant touring undertaken by me and Chintaman in later 
years was to see how these Centres were working. A great 
change could be observed among rural women within two years. 
At one centre, we found that even women of ninety years were 
coming to learn to read and write. I asked one of them why at 
her age she was keen to learn. Her reply was that she wanted to 
read the Granth Saheb by herself. This was in Punjab. Another 
woman of the same age replied that she wanted to read the 
Ramayana herself. 

Another effect of the Centre was that educated boys began to 
marry rural girls as they found them able to read and to work on 
sewing machines. 

A young married girl told me that she could now read the 
letters from her husband, which earlier she had had to get read 
out. for her by the village accountant. She felt very shy to have 
had to do that. Now she was happy that she could write to her 
husband and read his letters. 

Another scheme launched by me under the aegis of the Board 
was for the economic development of families. I realised that it 
was necessary to ensure that each family was economically 



stable: a poor family of ten or twelve could not be supported by 
one or two earners. If housewives could supplement family 
income, I felt, it would be possible to improve substantially the 
economic position of the family. Accordingly, the scheme 
sought to provide housewives with part-time or “own-time” 
work. Efforts were made to involve industries such as the beedi 
and the match box industries in the scheme, and to organise 
industrial cooperatives for the sale of products. 

I attached great importance to the reform of jails and the 
rehabilitation of criminals. Society, by refusing to* take them 
back into respectable life, condemns criminals and prostitutes to 
continue in the evil life into which they have fallen. I, therefore, 
requested Dr. M.S. Gore, who was then Director of the Delhi 
School of Social Work, to examine the conditions of criminals 
and the problems of their rehabilitation. A committee was set up 
under his chairmanship for the purpose. Lady Dhanvanthi 
Rama Rao undertook to study the living conditions, needs, and 
problems of prostitutes. I was extremely happy as I saw the 
progress of their work. I was particularly appreciative of Dr. 
Gore’s sensitive and analytical insights, and would read out bits 
from his report to my husband. Much of what is being done 
today by the Central and the State governments for the 
rehabilitation of criminals is the outcome of Dr. Gore’s report. 

Among the publications of the Board, two to which I look 
back with special satisfaction were the first attempts of their 
kind: one was a compendious review entitled Social Welfare in 
India and the other dealt with Social Legislation and Its Effects 
on Social Reform and Social Work. I also initiated the 
publication of the Social Welfare and its Hindi counterpart the 
Samaj Kalyan as monthly journals of the Board. 

I had a very interesting time during my chairmanship of the 
Central Social Welfare Board, which sometimes entailed clashes 
of opinion and personalities. 

Under the procedure for the Local Works scheme which had 
a provision of one hundred and fifty million rupees, the Planning 



Commission entrusted to the Member m-charge the 
responsibility of sanctioning ten thousand rupees to each local 
voluntary organisation subject to its receiving a matching 
contribution for that particular work from the State government. 
The latter had also to recommend that the organisation was a 
suitable one. Once the Poddar College of Commerce in Bombay 
wanted to take some students to nearby suburban villages for 
work on building a couple of link roads, cleaning of tanks, etc. 
Its Principal, Professor Welingkar, came along with fifty 
students requesting a grant of ten thousand rupees for the 
purpose. I had to do some hard work before I could convince Sri 
Morarji Desai, then Chief Minister of Bombay, that the 
institution was a good one and could be given the grant. 

On another occasion, Sri Desai refused to give a matching 
contribution of fifteen thousand rupees to the State Social 
Welfare Advisory Board when it was to be set up in Bombay 
State. Smt. Achamma Matthai had been appointed Chairman 
on my recommendation. Prime Minister Nehru resolved the 
dispute and succeeded in establishing a procedure by which the 
Bombay government and the Central Social Welfare Board 
would each give fifteen thousand rupees to the State Social 
Welfare Advisory Board annually. Similar confrontations arose 
with the Chief Ministers of Punjab and Karnataka. Ultimately 
we succeeded in establishing State Social Welfare Advisory 
Boards in all the States. 

When the Silver Jubilee of the Central Social Welfare Board 
came round in 1978, the Board honoured me by arranging the 
celebrations in Hyderabad since my husband and I could not go 
to Delhi due to health reasons. About seven hundred delegates 
came from all over the country. Smt. Leela Moolgaokar, who 
was the Chairman, presented on that occasion a “Mini Hospital 
on Wheels” and also a demand draft for three lakh rupees to 
equip the van. It had been my dream for a long time to take 
medicare to the doorsteps of the rural folk. It was therefore 
thoughtful and gracious of Sri Moolgaokar of Telco to give the 



van as a gift. The Government of Andhra Pradesh was good 
enough to provide an annual grant of seventy-five thousand 
rupees to meet the recurring expenditure on the running of the 
van. It is doing excellent work. 

VII. Our Life Together 

Chintaman’s first wife was Rosina, an English lady, whom 
he married in 1920 in London after he passed I.C.S. 
examination. He was then 24. Rosina, I understand, was a very 
fine person, kind, affectionate, very hospitable, and devoted to 
her husband. Besides, she was a gifted cook. After his tenure as 
the Governer of Reserve Bank was over in 1948. Chintaman 
was planning to go to England and settle down there. He bought 
a house in a suburb of London, and named it ‘Roha’, after his 
ancestral village. However, Prime Minister Nehru wanted him to 
continue in the post as he wanted Chintaman to look after the 
nationalisation of the Reserve Bank. Thus Chintaman could not 
go to England that year. Rosina died in London in 1949 after a 
brief illness. This was sudden, and Chintaman could not be with 
her at the time of her death. 

They had a daughter — Primrose, whom they affectionately 
called ‘Kiki’. She was born in the year 1922 at Amravati when 
Chintaman was serving the Central Provinces government. 
After Rosina’s death, Chintaman had again entertained plans of 
going to England and staying with his daughter. But his plans 
changed when he thought of marrying me. He put away a part 
of his commuted pension in a London bank to provide a 
monthly allowance for Kiki. 

At the time of our marriage, Chintaman was building a house 
in Poona at an estimated cost of one lakh rupees including 
twenty thousand as cost of the site. He had planned to build 



only one floor but when our marriage was deckled on he asked 
the architect to provide for a second floor which meant an 
increase of about thirty thousand rupees in cost. Chintaman told 
me that he was meeting this expenditure from his provident 
fund. Of the balance, he proposed to spend twenty thousand on 
his campaign for election to the Lok Sabha from the Colaba 
constituency. He further said that as he was not a Congress 
man, he did not want the Congress to spend any money on his 
election. He contested and won the election as an Independent, 
but was supported by the Congress. 

The plot of land for the Poona house was costly, Chintaman 
said, but he had selected that site because it was just opposite 
the confluence of the two rivers Mula and Mutha, and in front 
of the Simhagad and the temple of Parvathi. I could quite un- 
derstand; Chintaman was not merely an able administrator but 
was also an artist, a poet, and a lover of nature. 

By the time we married, the house in Poona was almost ready 
for occupation. We performed the ‘house-warming 5 ceremony 
when we visited Poona that summer. We invited a few relations 
and friends on the occasion. Sri B.D. Deshmukh, my husband’s 
fourth brother who was in Poona, and his wife Sarlabai, helped 
us in making the arrangements. My brother Narayana Rao 
came from Madras to attend the function. A noted Marathi 
singer, Smt. Hirabai Barodekar, gave a music recital in the even- 

My husband wanted to name the house ‘Ryvataka’, meaning 
a small mountain, a variation of my original name ‘Revathi 5 , as I 
was born under the star of that name. However, I told him that 
since both of us were members of the Planning Commission the 
house could more aptly be named ‘Yojana’ which is the Sanskrit 
word for planning. He readily agreed and thus our Poona house 
was named ‘Yojana’. 

As we lived most of the time in Delhi, we did not want the 
house kept vacant and wanted somebody to look after it. We 
therefore decided to rent a part of the house, keeping a compact 
portion for our use whenever we went to Poona on a holiday. 



The house was rented out to the Indian Air Force and the first 
tenant was the son-in-law of Col. Lakshmanan, the Director- 
General of Health Services. Our portion consisted of a drawing 
room, a bedroom, a kitchen with a small store room, and a gar- 
age. We purchased the furniture, and the necessary things for 
cooking. A small modern kitchen was set up with the help of an 
engineer friend. 

The beauty of the house was that, sitting in the varandah, one 
could watch the beautiful spectacle of the two rivers in 
confluence. The garden which my husband developed there was 
more a botanical museum. It had rare varieties of creepers and 
shrubs, such as Kaniyomarpha Microphylla, and the tree of life. 
Lignum Vitae. We secured many varieties of plants from 
Lalbaug in Bangalore and appointed a mali who knew well his 
job of gardening. A number of students of botany and other 
students from the Poona colleges used to visit ‘Yojana’ to see the 

From Poona we used to go for a couple of weeks to Madras, 
where my mother and brother lived, and then return to Delhi. 
This was how we used to spend our summers. 

In Delhi, 1 Willingdon Crescent was our residence. It had been 
allotted to Chintaman. It was a huge house, with five bedrooms. 
It would take me several minutes to walk from our bedroom to 
the kitchen. The house had seventeen servants’ quarters and 
there were nine malis at work. It was built on a land of nearly 
five acres. The garden was beautiful. It had about three hundred 
and fifty eucalyptus trees and two big mango trees. It was 
difficult to grow either flowering trees or fruit trees, not to speak 
of flowering shrubs, because they would not flourish under the 
eucalyptus trees. Therefore, as soon as I went to 1 Willingdon 
Crescent to live with my husband, I suggested that some of the 
eucalyptus trees be cut down. The eucalyptus trees consumed all 
the available groundwater; and as their roots were not deep 
enough, there was the danger of the trees crashing down in a 
dust-storm, common enough in Delhi, or in a squall. (I had read 



a newspaper report that the wife of a government officer had 
been killed when an eucalyptus tree fell on her during a squall.) 
Besides, bees had built many honey-combs on these trees and 
there was the danger of being stung by them. 

Chintaman agreed with me and the malis cleared the gar- 
den. We set apart one acre of the land for growing wheat. Half- 
an-acre we used for growing pulses. Another half-an-acre we put 
under seasonal flowers. Some area was earmarked for 
vegetables. I do not remember having even bought our daily 
vegetables and mangoes while we lived in that hoTuse. 

The malis said that we had grown the best wheat crop. I 
suggested to my husband that we set up a cooperative society 
consisting of the two of us and all the malis as members; we 
would put up the working capital and the malis would contribute 
their share through labour during their off-time. Whatever we 
grew would be shared equally by all of us. This idea was liked by 
the malis and I used to see them working even in the nights. 
Four of them lived in the servants’ quarters. 

Alongside the wheat, we planted varieties of fruit trees from 
the different States of India. We had ‘Banganapalli’ and 
‘RasanT, special varieties of mango from the Krishna district of 
Andhra, 4 Langra’ and ‘Dussehri’ from Uttar Pradesh, and some 
nice varieties from Saurashtra. We also grew varieties of 
oranges and lime. We had about thirty each of mango and 
orange and lime trees, which formed a pretty avenue leading to 
the wheat field. 

We also had a beautiful lily pond and a rockery. One day 
while walking in the garden we thought we should have a 
penthouse near the lily pond. The government rules did not 
provide for constructing a penthouse. Therefore, we decided that 
we should have it constructed on our own; it cost us five 
thousand rupees, and it was worth it. We also wanted to have a 
pergola of about three hundred by fifteen feet, where we could 
grow flowering creepers, jasmines, Malathi, Radhamadhav, etc. 
Again, the government rules did not have a provision for a 



pergola, even in a minister’s house. Chintaman and I then asked 
the public works department to consider whether the money 
provided for repairs or additions in the budget could be spent on 
making a pergola, since we did not want any repairs to the house 
that year. After examining the rules, the department said that it 
could be done. Thus we came to have a beautiful pergola, with 
rods made of iron but painted to look as bamboos. Our visitors 
who saw the pergola were charmed by it. 

Immediately after I shifted to the house I had a Tulsi 
Brindavan constructed. It was painted in brick-red colour with 
haldi and kumkum on the top. We planted Krishna Tulsi in the 
centre. This added to the beauty of the garden. On either side of 
the Tulsi we planted beautiful flowering trees and shrubs. 

When I moved to 1 Willingdon Crescent, a large number of 
friends and relations of my husband were staying with him. 
There was N.R. Pillai, Cabinet Secretary, who occupied one 
bedroom. P.S. Rau, I.C.S. (Retd.), used another room. One 
room was reserved for justice Rajadhyaksha, a friend of 
Chintaman, who used to visit Delhi off and on; he was 
practically a-member of the family. Chintaman’s niece Usha and 
Padmakar Prabhu, who were married a couple of years earlier, 
lived in one room. One thing which I did not like was their 
assembling together in the evenings with Chintaman at drink 
parties. I gradually put a stop to this. Within one year of our 
marriage they all left. 

Before we were married, my husband had a butler to attend to 
his daily chores such as polishing the shoes, etc. He was well 
paid. I also found two cooks, who not only wasted the 
provisions but also carried home food for their families. The 
kitchen was in a mess, and nobody had the responsibility of 
controlling the household expenditure which was running very 
high, at about three thousand rupees per month. 

After our marriage, though I had a good cook — Gopal, who 
had been in my service for several years - I never left the entire 
cooking to him. I was not satisfied unless I myself prepared at 



least one dish. I am sure my husband liked this. Among the 
dishes he enjoyed most were Idli, Upma, and Dosa. But I did not 
provide only South Indian dishes. I also started to prepare 
Maharashtrian specialities: Ampti, Ambatvaran, Peethala, 
Chakli, Chivda, Puran Poli, and Panchamrit. My husband 
certified that I had learnt to make them well. 

I found to my pleasant surprise that our monthly household 
expenditure had come down to about seventeen hundred rupees. 
There was no theft of provisions or milk now, nor any wastage. 
There was proper accounting of the money spent on running the 

I should say that I became a traditional Hindu wife to 
Chintaman, sharing his comforts and happiness, as well as his 
problems and worries. My husband told me that I had proved 
myself to him as a wife who was 

Karyeshu Dasi, Karnes hu Mantri, 

Bhojyeshu Mata, Kshamaya Dharitri. 

Our cook Gopal stayed in one of the servants’ quarters and 
his services were available the whole day. However, since he 
could not cook non-vegetarian dishes, I arranged for part-time 
help for preparing some non-vegetarian food for my husband, at 
least for dinner. After some time, my husband asked me to stop 
this arrangement. He said my vegetarian meals - sambhar, 
rasam, vegetables, kadhi, raita and the like were delicious and a 
non-vegetarian supplement was not really necessary. It was not 
as if I forced him to give up non-vegetarian food, and there was 
no question of adjustment or compromise. It just happened that 
even m our food habits we became one. 

One day Prime Minister Nehru dropped in at breakfast time. 
It was Chintaman’s birthday. Pandit Nehru said, ‘Durgabai, you 
did not care to invite me to your house although it is the 
birthday of your husband. Do you know that he is my 
Minister?’ I told him, ‘Panditji, we do not like our birthdays 
being celebrated publicly; we want to spend the day quietly. But 



we are very happy that you came to bless us!’ I offered him tea 
and biscuits. 

My husband then took him to the garden. It was the first time 
that Panditji went round the garden and took in the details. He 
was astonished. 

I made it a point to invite all my husband’s relations — his 
mother, brothers and their wives, sisters and their husbands - to 
live with us at least for one week and give them company. Over 
a period they &\\ came and I have the satisfaction of knowing 
every one of them intimately. 

Once I said to my husband’s mother, ‘Ayi, you should stay 
with us hereafter, because my husband is your eldest son.’ She 
said, ‘Yes’, and stayed with us. After some months one day she 
told me, ‘What do I do here? Both of you go to the office in the 
morning and return in the evening. I would like to go back to 
Roha.’ So we sent her back to the ancestral village, but we used 
to spend a couple of weeks with her every year. 

My mother, brother, and his wife also used to pay us a visit 
occasionally, particularly during their children’s vacation. We 
thus had the pleasure of inviting our relations and they saw us 
living happily and spending a purposeful life. 

Most of the members of Parliament and ministers had a 
complaint against me that we did not invite them for dinner or 
lunch, or at least for tea, on the occasion of our marriage. I 
therefore started to invite them for tea in batches of fifty. This 
went on for several months till most of them had visited us. 

The Finance Minister had two night security guards. Yet we 
had the experience of thefts taking place twice in our house. It 
was strange. I was told that this had happened also when Sri 
K.P.S. Menon was living in the house earlier. It was difficult for 
us to have privacy because the security people used to peep even 
into the bedroom as part of their duty; I did not understand 
how, despite this, thieves managed to get into the house and take 
away a table clock, a transistor radio, and a silver flower vase. 

Chintaman and I were very early risers, even though 



occasionally we went to bed as late as midnight. We both had 
the habit of working for a couple of hours in the morning before 
eight. My husband would not have his bed tea as early as five 
o’clock. I have, even today not got into the habit of having early 
morning tea. 

After eight we would have our wash and spend half-an-hour 
from half past eight to nine in the garden. At quarter past nine 
we would have our breakfast together. Chintaman used to reach 
his office exactly at half past nine. 

Chintaman would not receive any visitors at home. This was 
a sharp departure from the practice followed by Congress 
ministers. When you went to the house of a Congress minister, 
you could see fifty to one hundred persons waiting to see him. 
Chintaman was not a typical Congress man; he was more a 
bureaucrat-cum-technocrat. Govind Ballabh Pant came to our 
house one morning, and, finding no cars in the porch, expressed 
his surprise. 

Women social workers used to call on me at my house. I 
would receive them and spend some time with them from half 
past nine to ten in the morning. I used to leave for my office at 
quarter past ten to be there at half past ten. 

Both Chintaman and I used to come home at one o’clock for 
lunch. Occasionally when he did not have a car, he used to cycle 
down to the house. After lunch at half past one and having 
listened to music for a while, we would rest for about an hour. 
Thereafter we would go to our offices at three in the afternoon. 
We would return at half past five unless we had meetings or 
some other urgent work. We made it a point not to have visitors 
between half past five and seven in the evening. After some 
snacks and evening tea, we would go either to a public garden or 
to the river-side. In this outing for fresh air and relaxation, only 
our driver would be with us. A liveried peon used to sit in the 
car, as was the practice with ministers, but we discontinued this 
as we did with many other things of this nature. We also would 
not fly the national flag on our car when we went out on 



personal work. 

We would return at quarter past seven and meet any special 
visitors till half past eight. After dinner at nine we would spend 
half-an-hour going through any important papers left by our 
personal secretaries. We go to bed at ten. 

It was surprising for me to watch my husband, who was 
steeped in Western habits, recite slokas and poetry from the 
Vedas, the epics or the great Sanskrit poets. Jaidev and Kalidas 
are among feis favourite authors. Meghadoot , translated by him 
into Marathi from Kalidas’s Megha Sandesh, was very well 
received and even today we get occasional requests for copies of 
this volume. 

We had some very efficient and devoted assistants. Among 
them Sri P.D. Kasbekar, an I.A.S. officer, was Chintaman’s 
private secretary. They had great admiration for us and helped 
me in the discharge of my responsibilities both as housewife and 
as social worker. Kasbekar used to dispose of most of the 
papers himself, and brought only important papers for the 
Finance Minister’s attention. I used to tell my husband that in 
Kasbekar’ s vocabulary there was no phrase like “Madam, this 
cannot be done.” It was always, “Madam, it is done.” 

Kasbekar’s only drawback, if at all, was that he did not know 
the names of plants. Since his boss was an expert, Kasbekar was 
afraid of taking down orders for varieties of seeds or plants from 
India and from foreign countries. 

My private secretary was Elizabeth Azariah, whose husband 
was an Income-Tax Officer in the South. She was my classmate 
in the Law College during 1939-40. She was the mother of four 
children, and so found it difficult to complete her study of law. 
She stayed with us in two of the servants’ quarters. Mrs. 
Azariah has since died but all her four sons are now well settled, 
two of them abroad. I remember that my husband used to give a 
piece of work to one of her sons, who was only ten at the time. 
He gave him one rupee for every frog he killed in the lily pond! 

I used to prepare a variety of mango and lime pickles and 



store them in jars, and send them to my husband’s sisters and 
brothers. These were novelties for them, but were very common 
in Andhra. Chintaman himself became very fond of mango 

We used to go to Madras in summer to spend a few weeks 
with my mother, brother, and his family. Occasionally, we spent 
some time in hill stations in the South like Kodaikanal and Ooty, 
along with my brother’s three children - Ramu, Krishna, and 
Durgi. There were some occasions when we spent a short 
holiday in Kanyakumari, and in Roha with Chintaman’s mother 
and other members of his family. 

Chintaman generally maintained very good health. He had 
active habits and observed regular hours for work, food, and 
leisure. It was perhaps because of this disciplined life that even 
at the age of 82, he had been able to withstand the greatest 
pressure: three major operations and two minor ones from 22 to 
30 August 1977. In the opinion of the doctors that attended on 
him, it was because he maintained his general health and his 
vital functions were normal that he was able to survive the major 

When I look back over the twenty-six years of our married 
life, I cannot find even a single instance where we differed 
significantly. Thus, there was no question of adjustment because 
adjustment and compromise arise only when one differs 
basically from the other on a significant matter. We are happy 
that we have been able to keep up this affection and under- 
standing during all this period. We were assimilated in one 
another and were integrated as a whole like Parvati and 
Parameswara. The only flutter, of course a minor one, was when 
my husband resigned as Union Finance Minister. 

From the beginning of 1956, I used to see Chintaman very 
thoughtful and sometimes restless. This was after three years of 
our marriage. I asked him what worried him. He replied that he 
had started feeling that he could not continue to function as 
finance Minister. His advice on fiscal policy and measures had 



always been accepted by the Prime Minister since he joined the 
Cabinet. But now he found that on a very important matter 
which had a bearing on his standing as an elected member of 
Parliament from the Colaba constituency his advice was being 
ignored and that Bombay city was going to be made a Centrally 
administered area. He felt convinced that this would be against 
the interests of the residents of a large territory surrounding 
Bombay except for the vested business interests. He had 
expressed lys views to the Prime Minister as soon as he had 
heard of the abrupt change of position in this respect, and had 
been led to hope that the matter would be rectified. But he had 
found that at the final stage, the Prime Minister had brought in 
legislation for declaring Bombay a Centrally administered area. 
This had made his position untenable and he felt that it was his 
duty to resign. He told me that he also felt that Nehru was being 
influenced by the capitalists. 

I felt that he was right on the merits of the issue. But the 
reaction of many members of Parliament and some of his 
C abinet colleagues was against his resignation. They felt that the 
interests of the nation would suffer if he were to quit, as he had 
proved to be a very capable Finance Minister who had given 
concrete shape to the socialist policies of the government. 
Panditji was reluctant to accept his resignation and several of 
Chintaman’s letters requesting to be relieved remained 
unanswered. A few of Chintaman’s close friends asked me to 
persuade him to withdraw the resignation. I was in a dilemma. 
One day Chintaman told me that he had made up his mind to 
leave, whether or not his resignation was accepted. A letter 
addressed by him to the Prime Minister to this effect was typed 
and he instructed his private secretary to send it immediately. 
The secretary asked me, ‘Madam, can’t you persuade F.M. not 
to send this letter, just for a couple of days?’ He said that 
everyone in the country was feeling that his resignation would 
not be in the national interest. I went to Chintaman and asked 
him, ‘Why don’t you wait for a couple of days? I wouldn’t have 



asked this if it were not for the good of the nation.’ He quickly 
replied, ‘Oh, you married me because I am the Finance 
Minister.’ That clinched the issue. I left the room and went to his 
private secretary and asked him to despatch Chintaman’s letter 
to the Prime Minister immediately. I didn’t speak to him for a 
few days as I felt that he had misunderstood me. It was after he 
had made up with me that the silence was broken. 

It was in Chintaman’s time as Finance Minister during the 
period 1950-56 that a large volume of socialistic, legislation, 
which gave form and content to Pandit Nehru’s ideals of social 
justice, was put through: Nationalisation of the Reserve Bank, 
the Estate Duty Act, Company Law, nationalisation of life 
insurance and nationalisation of the Imperial Bank. It is 
worthwhile recalling that not one of these came to be challenged 
in a court of law as ultra vires of the Constitution. 

During his tenure the country’s foreign exchange position was 
extremely sound. There was no deficit financing, prices were low 
and steady, inflation was under check, the systems of control 
functioned well, and there was no talk of devaluation of the 

I remember asking Chintaman once to show me the gold 
reserves kept in the Reserve Bank cellar. The Governor of the 
Reserve Bank Benegal Rama Rau, was only too happy to take 
his predecessor and his wife through the vaults of the bank. I 
also remember at the time seeing an oil painting of Chintaman in 
the Committee Room of the Central Office. I did not like it, 
mainly because it made him appear much older than he was. I 
said this to Sri Rama Rau, who said that he too thought so. 
Later, the Governor got a new oil painting of my husband done. 

I had a chance of seeing it on another occasion and liked it. 

Almost immediately after he left the finance ministership, the 
Education Minister, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, sent the 
Education Secretary, Humayun Kabir, to request my husband 
to take up the chairmanship of the University Grants 
Commission which had just then been set up by an Act of 



Parliament. Chintaman accepted the appointment, as he had 
developed a great deal of interest in education. He had dealt with 
the subject at one time as Joint Secretary to the Government of 
India in the Department of Education, Health and Lands. 

Two days after he had accepted the chairmanship of the 
University Grants Commission, Pandit Nehru sent Sri B.K. 
Nehru, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, to ask my 
husband if he would agree to a proposal made by the 
governments of the U.S.A. and the U.K. to nominate him as 
Director-General of the International Monetary Fund. This post 
of International Civil Servant was then and still is a highly 
prestigious one, with a salary of around $30,000 a year plus 
perquisites. Sri B.K. Nehru also mentioned that the Prime 
Minister had told him that if Chintaman accepted this post, he 
would consider it a great honour to India. My husband told Sri 
Nehru that he would give his reaction after consulting me. 

We discussed the matter and decided that a high salary did 
not mean anything to us and that we should work in and for our 
country and help the implementation of the various social and 
economic measures, many of which we had ourselves initiated. 
The offer was, therefore, turned down. 

I do not know whether Pandit Nehru talked to Maulana Azad 
about this, but the Education Minister did call my husband and 
told him that he would appreciate his accepting the post of 
Director-General of the International Monetary Fund and that 
he would not want his earlier acceptance of chairmanship of the 
University Grants Commission to come in the way. My 
husband told him that his was a considered decision on a 
principle, and that he would prefer service to his country. 

There has been an impression that Chintaman was one of the 
richest men in India and, therefore, money was no consideration 
for us. Soon after our marriage, my husband brought to me the 
cheque books of three accounts he was operating in the State 
Bank of India, Reserve Bank and Grindlays Bank, saying that I 
should henceforth take care of the finances and operate the 



accounts jointly. I remember that one of the accounts showed a 
balance of two thousand five hundred rupees, another a balance 
of four thousand rupees. The Grindlays Bank account showed a 
balance of one or two thousand dollars. On the other hand, his 
liabilities included ten thousand rupees to be paid to the 
contractor who was building his house in Poona. 

We had two cars — one mine and the other his. Both were 
Austin. We also had two drivers. My car was the latest model, 
his was an older one, bought in England. Both were 
coincidentally of the same colour. We thought it would be 
pointless to keep both the cars and therefore decided to dispose 
of one. We decided to retain my car. 

We had decided that when one of us was earning, the other 
would not accept a salary, so that at any given time the services 
of one of us would be given to the nation free. We are happy that 
we were able to maintain this resolve. When I was full-time 
Chairman of the Central Social Welfare Board, Chintaman 
drew only one rupee as a token salary for the best part of his 
term as Chairman of the University Grants Commission, 
against his entitlement of about three thousand rupees per 
mensem. When he was drawing a salary as Vice-Chancellor of 
the Delhi University, I had left the post of Chairman, Central 
Social Welfare Board. Since then I have not worked on salary 
basis and my services have been given free in the activities I took 

As Chairman of the University Grants Commission, 
Chintaman rendered a signal service to the teaching community 
of the universities by raising their emoluments to a reasonable 
and respectable level. A year after he had completed his tenure 
as Chairman of the University Grants Commission, he was 
selected as Vice-Chancellor of the Delhi University, in which 
capacity he served for the full term of five years till 1967. As 
Vice-Chancellor of the Delhi University he brought about many 
improvements. If only his advice had been accepted in the 
matter of creating a second university, so as to divide the heavy 



load of the large number of students, and to streamline the 
complicated administrative procedures, the university’s position 
perhaps would have been much better today. 

Chintaman is known as a capable administrator and an able 
Finance Minister. But very few people know him as a devoted 
social worker. The Andhra Mahila Sabha and other welfare 
institutions, both in the South and in Delhi, have benefited 
greatly by his guidance and assistance from time to time. He 
never grudged helping these institutions in their day-to-day 
problems, studying them with patience and sincerity. 

In many cases, retirement from office means the end of public 
work. This has not been so in the case of Chintaman. He has 
been serving many institutions, both national and international. 
The India International Centre in Delhi owes its existence and 
development to his untiring efforts. As the Life President of this 
institution, he has spared no pains to develop its activities to 
serve not only Indian academicians coming to Delhi* but also 
their counterparts in different parts of the world who find a 
congenial home away from home in this institution. 

As President of the Council for Social Development (and also 
of the Population Council of India till it had to be discontinued), 
he had contributed to the study of the social dynamics of 
economic development. His other activities have included the 
chairmanship of the Administrative Staff College of India at 
Hyderabad and of the Indian National Committee of the World 
University Service. 

No summing up of the contribution of Chintaman would be 
complete without a grateful reference to his service to the dumb 
millions of trees, shrubs, and other species of the plant kingdom 
which have found in him a friend and an admirer who treated 
them with the same love and affection that he would have given 
to his own children. 

VIII. Travel and Work 

CmNTAMAN and I travelled a great deal, mostly together, in 
our respective capacities — he as Finance Minister and I as 
Chairman of the Central Social Welfare Bpard. We felt that it 
would be a good thing if we studied in person the progress and 
the problems of the projects in different parts of the country in 
the field of education, health, agriculture, and industry. W e were 
keen, in particular, to see the implementation of the Local 
Works Programme and the Community Development Projects, 
as both these were conceived to improve the lot of our rural 

From 1953 onwards we visited about two hundred eighty 
five of the then three hundred thirty districts in India. We 
travelled by plane, by train, by jeep and by bullock cart. After 
staying at the district headquarters for a couple of days, either in 
the municipal guest house or in the government dak bungalow, 
we would proceed to the block level. 

Our tours had more than one purpose: to gain first-hand 
information of the progress of implementation of the projects 
launched at a huge cost; to identify the difficulties being 
experienced by people in charge of implementation (for instance, 
it may be that basic materials like steel, iron, cement, tiles, etc. 
were not available or there may be difficulty in their 
transportation to the project sites or there may be lack of trained 
manpower such as engineers and contractors or some of them 



may not be willing to work in villages); and to find out how far 
the local people were extending their cooperation in 
implementing the projects. We had heard that in some places the 
people did not extend their full cooperation to the Block 
Development Officers or the Gram Sevikas or the Mukhya 
Sevikas who were in charge of my projects under the rural 
welfare extension programme. 

We wanted to know the views and the wishes of the local 
people in regard to the projects designed for their area, and also 
to know their attitude towards providing matching contribution 
either in cash or in the shape of a piece of land to be given to the 
Central Social Welfare Board for constructing a maternity 
centre or a school for the children. Under the Local Works 
Programme, any voluntary welfare organisation in a State 
engaged in health, education, or social welfare, could adopt a 
couple of villages and design a project to either clean a disused 
tank, or make an approach road, or build a school, and- raise up 
to ten thousand rupees either in cash or in kind. Against this, the 
Centre would provide a matching grant of ten thousand rupees 
to the organisation. The only condition was that the State 
government should certify that the organisation was a suitable 
and a genuine one. I am proud and happy to say that we could 
complete thirty thousand such works all over India - such as 
approach roads, schools, culverts, and health centres. Although 
these were small works, they met the needs of the people. I am 
further gratified that the Central Social Welfare Board in its 
rural welfare projects got three hundred acres of land 
throughout India given to it as matching contribution by the 
local people. 

We would discuss the various matters connected with the 
projects with the District Collector, the members of Zilla 
Parishads and Panchayat Samitis, as well as the local people. 
We would meet not only people belonging to the ruling party but 
also to the opposition groups. 

Chintaman and I would sometimes travel as much as three 



hundred miles a day by car, moving from one project area to 
another. It was not unusual for us to deliver twenty talks in a 
day between us, in English, Marathi, Hindi, Telugu, and 
sometimes in broken Tamil. We spoke not only at public 
meetings but also in colleges and schools and in hospitals, big 
and small, at the district and block levels. We must have laid 
foundation-stones and inaugurated new buildings at hundreds of 
places. We were accustomed to putting a report down 
immediately after a visit was over. 

We visited not less than ten districts in each State. We also 
travelled extensively in the then Union Territories of Manipur 
and Tripura and in Meghalaya. We made it a point that we 
would not stay with any businessman or industrialist. We 
preferred the municipal guest house or village choultry, even 
though it was not always very comfortable. 

We were punctual in our programmes during our visits. In 
some places we would find gatherings of hardly ten people. We 
were told that this was because they were not accustomed to 
punctuality: Congress ministers would be a couple of hours late 
on such occasions. We used to go ahead with the function or 
lecture even though there. might be only a handful of people. 
This happened in the first few months; once our practice came 
to be known, people would collect in large numbers in time. 

We also made it a point to read carefully the memoranda 
given to us by the villagers, discuss the problems with the 
Collector or other officials, and ask them why a particular work 
could not be completed or what accounted for the delay in 
starting it. 

We were very happy that we undertook these tours — for 
about twenty days in a month. They provided us opportunities 
not only of getting to know people and their difficulties but also 
of learning about their attitude to the planning process, their 
willingness or otherwise to cooperate, and the reasons for their 
attitude. We learnt that in some areas the Collector or other 
official would design a particular project, such as a building or 



other construction work, benefiting a group of villages without 
consulting, or without the consent of the villagers. This 
sometimes caused resentment. We did our best to correct this 
arbitrary approach. We would call all the block officials and the 
Collector and the President of the Zilla Parishad or the 
Panchayat Samithi, discuss the issues with them and tell them to 
take the people into confidence in all rural programmes before 
launching work. We would tell that they should ascertain from 
the people whether they would be willing to take care of 
maintenance after the work was completed and when Central 
aid was withdrawn. We strongly felt that this type of dialogue 
was necessary for any work to be successful, because the 
villagers had to realise that they would be the ultimate 
beneficiaries. Without mobilising the people’s support from its 
very start, it would not be possible to involve them either in the 
completion of the project or in its maintenance. 

During a visit to Samalkot in the East Godavari district of 
Andhra Pradesh, we found that an official had started to 
construct a building with a couple of rooms for starting a school. 
We felt that there was an undercurrent of resentment. On 
enquiry we found that the people of the area did not want a 
school building, as they felt that the school could be located in a 
public place like a temple or under a tree where the Panchayat 
used to meet; rather, they wanted a maternity centre with the 
services of a dai. I felt very angry at the way the official had 
gone about his work. I got announced through drumbeat that a 
meeting would be held the next day when a member of the 
Planning Commission and Chairman of the Central Social 
Welfare Board would meet the villagers and when officials like 
the Collector and the B.D.O. would also address them. The 
meeting took place and in consultation with the people, it was 
decided to build a maternity centre. To the surprise of all the 
visitors, the people then and there offered their matching 
contribution. I announced that the Centre would provide the 
services of a qualified dai and pay her salary. 



I must, however, say that Chintaman and I were not really in 
favour of a matching contribution. We noticed that often the 
matching contribution came from the rich section of the 
villagers. This had undesirable consequences. The village usually 
consisted of two sections - the few rich and the many poor who 
had hardly one meal a day. The poor usually lived in hamlets far 
away from the centre of the village, and the distance between 
this section and the area where the rich lived was often more 
then one kilometre. 

The concept of matching contribution was introduced by the 
Planning Commission for the rural welfare programmes in order 
to encourage the participation of the people and promote self- 
reliance. But this was misconceived, because in practice only a 
small number among the rich section of the village population 
could manage to give some matching contribution, either in 
cash or in kind - tiles, cement, steel, etc. But they would give 
this on the tacit understanding that the project would benefit 
them primarily. For instance, if an approach road was to be 
built, they would see to it that it started from their locality to the 
main road. Or, if a well was to be dug, they would want it within 
two hundred metres of their houses. Such local works were not 
useful to the majority of the villagers. I have heard hundreds of 
such instances. 

The result was that the rich became richer and the 
disparities increased. The rich who paid the matching 
contribution somehow made it up. They came to be elected to 
the panchayats, local boards, and even as M.L.A.S or M.P.s, 
some of them becoming ministers. The technique they usually 
adopted was to play host to a minister or a deputy minister 
when he came to visit their village, providing him with 
accommodation and other facilities, and managed in return to 
get his support during elections. This was the undesirable 
outcome of the concept of matching contribution, and I hope 
that it would be given up. 

We thus gained rich experience during our travels, which gave 



us insights into several aspects of the planning process in the 
country and the pitfalls of implementation. 

It was Pandit Nehru who said that the big projects shaping 
the country’s future were the ‘temples of modern India’. We had 
opportunities of visiting several of these such as the Bhakra 
Nangal in Punjab, the Damodar Valley Project in Bihar, the 
Rourkela Project in Orissa, the Nagarjunasagar Project in 
Andhra Pradesh, and the Bhilai Steel Plant in Madhya Pradesh. 

We never missed visiting public gardens during our visits to 
different places, and would buy new plants which we did not 
have in our garden. 

Nor did we miss visiting the famous temples of pre-modern 
India which testify to the greatness of our culture and religion. 
Among the major temples we visited are: Rameswaram in the 
extreme south, where, according to mythology, Rama 
underwent penance to atone for the sin of killing Ravana who 
was a Brahmin; Madurai with its famous Meenakshi temple; Sri 
Ranganatha temple of Srirangam, near Tiruchi; Kamakshi 
Ammal temple of Kanchipuram; Parthasarathi temple and 
Kapaleswara temple in Madras; Padmanabha Swami temple in 
Kerala; Sri Venkateswara temple of Tirupati; Viswanath temple 
in Banaras; Pandarinath temple and Paravati temple in 
Maharashtra; Satyanarayana Swami at Annavaram, 
Narasimha Swami of Simhachalm, Bhimeswaralayam of 
Draksharamam, Ramachandra in Bhadrachelam, and 
Mallikarjuna Swami temple of Srisailam - all in Andhra 
Pradesh; Belur and Halebid in Karnataka; Chittodgad temple in 
Rajasthan; Shyamala in Simla; and Chandi Devi in Chandigarh. 
When we visited the temple in Chittodgad, Chintaman and I 
sang some of the better-known songs like ‘Hari Guna Gaatha 
Nachongi’, ‘Mere Tho Giridhara Gopala’, sitting at the same 
place where Meera is reputed to have sung. I have mentioned all 
this as the background to the good turn done to temples by 
Chintaman as Finance Minister. At the request of the temple 
trustees and managements, he did his best in exempting from 



taxes the diamonds used for making jewellery and thrones for 
the gods and goddesses in temples. This received the unanimous 
support of members of Parliament and was widely appreciated 
by the public. 

We would not have been able to enlarge our understanding of 
India and her people unless we had undertaken these extensive 
tours of the country and come into contact with people in their 
diverse surroundings. We were able to know India’s great 
heritage and the strength and capability of our people despite 
long years of suppression under foreign rule. 

We also travelled together a great deal outside of the country 
till 1972, when we had to resign, for health reasons, some of our 
official positions on bodies like UNICEF so far as I was 
concerned, and on UNITAR (United Nations Institute of 
Training and Research), a special agency of the United Nations 
of which Chintaman was Vice-President. 

It was in June-July 1953 that we made our first visit abroad 
together, to Sri Lanka, to attend a session of the Colombo Plan 
Consultative Committee. 

The very name of Sri Lanka fascinated me both because of 
the mythological and historical associations between our two 
countries and because my teacher ‘Gora’ had worked in Sri 
Lanka as a university lecturer; indeed that was his very first 
appointment after he qualified himself to teach Botany. 

Sir Oliver Gunatilake was the Governor-General and Sir John 
Kotlawala the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka at the time. 
Kotlawala was Cambridge-educated like Chintaman. He drove 
us to various places of interest and also to his hometown which 
was near the Peradenia Gardens. He was a cultured man with 
refined tastes. His bungalow was like a fort and we saw the 
many animals he was rearing. He was surprised to note 
Chintaman’s knowledge of flowers, shrubs, their origin and 
characteristics. He was particularly struck when Chintaman 
corrected the name of the lily in the pond in the Peradenia 
Gardens. We collected a lot of buds and cuttings and brought 



them to India. We met the Opposition Leader, Bandaranaike, 
and addressed a number of meetings. I studied the working of 
the Lanka Mahila Samiti, a popular organisation with hundreds 
of branches all over the country, which worked for the welfare 
of women and children. 

In our first joint visit to the U.S.A. in 1954, as on subsequent 
visits to countries with a sizable number of Indian residents, we 
made it a point to address meetings of Indian students and also 
those who had settled down in different vocations, some as 
medical practitioners and others as scientists and businessmen. 
There was a desire in most of them to return to India and work 
for the country, but they found it difficult to do so, as the salary 
structure in India was very low compared to the emoluments 
they were getting abroad. I would tell them that they owed a 
duty to work for their country, because the cost of their higher 
education in India had been borne largely by the Indian masses. 
It was only when India became rich that they would have the 
right to claim higher wages. Till then they would have to share 
the trying time with their Indian brothers and work under 
comparatively difficult circumstances. 

It was during our second visit to the U.S.A. , on the invitation 
of the Rockefeller Foundation, that we established contacts with 
many persons who were to help us in planning and building up 
the India International Centre in Delhi. The Rockefeller 
Foundation gave a grant of about five million rupees for the 
establishment of the Centre. It was also during this visit that we 
came into close touch with the work of the United Nations and 
its specialised agencies. Among those I got to know in New 
York were Miss Julia Henderson, Director of the U.N. Bureau 
of Social Affairs, Paul Hoffman, connected with the 
Development Aid Programme; U Thant, Secretary-General of 
the United Nations; and Sri C.V. Narasimhan, Under-Secretary 
General (Sri Narasimhan was Joint Secretary in the Finance 
Ministry when Chintaman was Minister). I had the opportunity 
of studying the set-up the Human Rights Commission, the 



World Court, the Women’s Status Section, the Section of Urban 
Welfare Expansion Projects, and, finally, the Section connected 
with Social Defence. Miss Julia Henderson and I became close 
friends later on and worked together on many projects. It was 
she who helped me to strengthen the Council for Social 
Development which I started in the year 1962 after retiring from 
the Chairmanship of the Central Social Welfare Board. She 
helped in getting Mr. Henning Friis, Director of the Danish 
National Institute of Social Research, Copenhagen, to be our 
Adviser for a period of six months. The government bf Denmark 
agreed to lend him on loan to the Council for Social 
Development. The cost of Henning Friis’ deputation in India 
was met by the United Nations and particularly by Paul 
Hoffman’s organisation on a request made by Miss Henderson 
at my instance. 

Henning Friis helped us in many ways to strengthen the 
Council for Social Development which today occupies a leading 
place among the country’s research organisations. He prepared 
a document* dealing with the Council’s research programme for 
five years in the social and economic fields. 

Though in both the Preamble and Chapter IV (Directive 
Principles of State Policy) of the Indian Constitution many 
welfare ideas are incorporated, they are ‘non-justiciable’. Non- 
compliance with them could not be challenged in a court of law, 
(Only the Fundamental Rights mentioned in Chapter III of the 
Constitution are justiciable). As a member of the Constituent 
Assembly, I had moved an amendment and pleaded that the 
Directive Principles, being non-justiciable, would only remain on 
paper unless we introduced a system that made it necessary for 
the government to place a report on the Table of the House for 
information of members on the progress of implementation of 
the Directive Principles. But my amendment was lost. The 

•Henning Friis. Social Policy and Social Research in India and the Contribution of 
the Council for Social Development, New Delhi; Council for Social Development, 



document which we in the Council for Social Development 
prepared on Social Policy became the basis for Henning Friis’ 

The Bureau of Social Affairs in the U.N. worked mainly for 
social welfare programmes in underdeveloped countries, but it 
had not formulated a policy to guide the designing of the welfare 
measures. The CSD document was, therefore, in great demand 
in the Bureau of Social Welfare in the United Nations. Miss 
Henderson ^sought our permission to print the entire document 
as part of their annual report. 

My visit to the Department of HEW (Health, Education and 
Welfare) at Washington, D.C., helped me to develop in the 
Andhra Mahila Sabha a section for the physically handicapped 
and the mentally retarded and their training and rehabilitation as 
part of the health programmes undertaken by the Sabha at 
Madras. I secured six lakh rupees from this Department of the 
U.S. government to help cerebral palsey children. Arising out of 
the report and the recommendations of the HEW, further help 
was forthcoming for establishing the rehabilitation section for 
the mentally retarded spastic children. The Orthopaedic Section 
of the Andhra Mahila Sabha in Madras is considered to be one 
of the leading institutions in this particular field of physical 
medicine. It attracted eminent persons like Dr. Natarajan, the 
Project Director, and Dr. B. Ramamurthy, the neuro-surgeon. 
HEW also helped me later to raise another seven lakh rupees to 
build up a traming-cum-production industrial unit for the blind 
in Delhi. This institution known as Blind Relief Association 
(BRA), a voluntary organisation, has been doing commendable 

Not only did we come into contact with the governments of 
the countries we visited, but also with a number of voluntary 
welfare organisations such as World University Service; ‘War 
on Want’; Freedom from Hunger Campaign; World Literacy of 
Canada; World Education Bureau; ‘Meals for Millions’; and 
American Foundation for Overseas Blind. 



Our third visit to the U.S.A. was in the year 1963 when we 
were invited by the Director-General of the U.N.’s Food & 
Agriculture Organisation at Rome to attend a World Food 
Congress to be held in Washington. Chintaman was asked to be 
the Chairman of a Committee to prepare the agenda and 
examine the proposals sent by the representatives of the member 
countries. The World Food Congress was to meet our travel 
expenditure and make arrangements for our stay in Washington, 
D.C. Nearly fifteen hundred people were invited to ^ttend: they 
included representatives of both the governments and the 
voluntary social welfare organisations of nearly one hundred 
twenty countries. This Congress is held once every five years. 

John F. Kennedy, then President of the United States of 
America, presided over the Congress and Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, 
then President of the Indian Republic, inaugurated it. It was a 
great occasion. Apart from the Big Powers, the participants 
included an appreciable number of Asian, African and Latin 
American nations. Some sessions were specially for discussing 
the role of voluntary organisations and how they could 
cooperate with the governments in raising food production. 

The main point of the paper I presented at the Congress was 
that it was not only the quantity but also the quality of food that 
was important. I also pleaded for the establishment of training 
institutions for workers in the field of food and nutrition. 
Chintaman was elected to the Governing Body of the World 
Food Congress, which was charged with the responsibility of 
following up the recommendations arising out of the 

On a visit to Geneva we studied the working of the European 
Division of Social Affairs which had just been constituted under 
the Bureau of Social Welfare of the United Nations and which 
was similar to the Council for Social Development in India. 
Discussions with the office-bearers of this body in Geneva led 
me to think that we could usefully take up certain action-cum- 
research projects such as non-formal education with a package 



programme of family life education, fundamental literacy, and 
development and improvement of child nutrition. By this time I 
was appointed a member of the International Liaison 
Committee of UNESCO for eradication of illiteracy in the world 
and particularly in the developing countries. In addition, I was 
taken as a member of the Committee on Social Defence, Crime 
and Correctional Administration a body constituted under the 
direction of the Economic and Social Commission of the United 
Nations w£ose Director was Edward Galway. It had its 
headquarters in Rome. 

We visited Japan in 1959-60 in connection with the 
establishment of the India International Centre. There was an 
International Centre in Tokyo aided by the Rockefeller 
Foundation. Mr. Matsu Moto was the Director-General of this 
Centre. In a way, the Japanese Centre and the Indian Centre 
could be regarded as twins, as their aims and strategy were the 
same. The Japanese Centre came into being much earlier, and 
was based on the support of industry, bankers and 
newspapermen, while the international Centre in Delhi is based 
on support mainly from Indian universities. Matsu Moto was 
educated and trained in America, so also were his wife and 
children. He was a very competent man coming from the 
newspaper world. We spent about three weeks as guests of the 
International Centre in Tokyo, which arranged our visits to 
various industrial and cultural centres like Osaka, Kyoto and 
Nara. Both of us addressed several meetings, among other 
places, at the Tokyo Imperial University and the Women’s 
University in Tokyo. 

We visited Bangkok thrice and on the third visit in 1965 we 
stayed for a couple of months as Chintaman and I were 
appointed as two of the five consultants of UNESCO for the 
preparation of a perspective plan (for twenty five-years) for 
educational development of Asia and South East Asia. This time 
we took a house in Bangkok. Our home life was made very 
pleasant by the two Ayahs whom we took from the Thai 



community and who learnt to cook Indian food in no time. We 
were delighted to see trees like Ademis Obasa and Nuscenda 
which flowered throughout the year. 

We visited Denmark and the Soviet Union on our way back 
from a visit to the U.S.A. At Copenhagen we met the concerned 
officials of the government of Denmark to discuss the proposals 
which we had made for a survey research and training project 
under the auspices of the Council for Social Development. After 
finishing our work we spent a day with Henning Fpiis and his 

We took the plane back to India via Moscow. Chintaman had 
been invited by the Academy of Social Sciences to inaugurate a 
project for the exchange of scholars between Indian and Soviet 
universities. We paid a visit to Patrice Lumumba University. 
After we finished our work in Moscow, we went to Leningrad 
and visited the historic places there and attended several cultural 
programmes before returning to India. 

IX. Goodbye to Delhi 

After i laid down office as Chairman, Central Social Welfare 
Board, in 1962 after a tenure of nearly ten years, I resumed my 
legal practice in the Supreme Court. Chintaman and I were 
staying in the Director’s quarters of the India International 
Centre, which the architect, Joseph Allen Stein, had taken 
special care to design. When I resumed my legal practice in 
October, I thought that as I had been out of the field for ten 
years I would not be able to command good practice, but to my 
surprise I was to appear in some important cases within a few 

My husband was at the time Chairman of the Maharani Bagh 
Cooperative Housing Society. As per the rules of the Society the 
Chairman was required to own a plot. We were at the time 
proposing to settle down in Delhi, and therefore purchased a 
plot for thirty-four thousand rupees. We had the money readily 
available as by that time we had sold our house ‘Yojana’ in 
Poona. We had disposed of our Poona house as we could hardly 
find time to go there and spend our vacations. We sold the house 
for one lakh thirty thousand rupees - the exact amount spent by 
Chintaman — to the American Institute of Indian Studies, of 
which Mr. Norman Cousins was the head. Chintaman was a 
member of this Institute. The Maharani Bagh colony is on the 
Ring Road, near the crossing of the Mathura Road. Chintaman 
had calculated the distance and found that it would take only 



seven minutes to reach the Supreme Court from there and that it 
would be convenient for both of us to live there and conduct our 
practice in the Supreme Court. Chintaman too had got himself 
enrolled in the Supreme Court. He used to tell me that he would 
help me in my legal practice as my junior after he left the Delhi 

However, about the time of Chintaman’s completion of his 
term of Vice Chancellor in 1967, we gave up the idea of 
constructing a house in Delhi and decided to settle down in 

It all happened this way. Chintaman and I were one day 
sitting in the garden of the Vice Chancellor’s Lodge, discussing 
the question of construction of a house in Maharani Bagh for 
which Allen Stein had prepared the plans. The estimated cost 
was one lakh seventy-five thousand rupees. I should say that we 
liked the design, but we reasoned that if we spent all the money 
available with us on a house it would be difficult for us to live in 
Delhi which was a very costly place. We therefore felt that it 
would be better to settle down in Hyderabad where we could 
construct a house on the land we had purchased in 1964. We 
never regretted this decision. 

There were several reasons for our preferring Hyderabad to 
Delhi. For one thing, the atmosphere in Delhi was increasing- 
ly vitiated by political conflict and becoming intellectually 
uncongenial. Secondly, the rural areas of Hyderabad and the 
districts of Telengana were backward and undeveloped from 
many points of view. The incidence of illiteracy and ill-health 
was high. We thought that if we settled down in Hyderabad we 
would have plenty of scope to work for the social and economic 
development of this backward region. The Andhra Mahila 
Sabha had already started a branch at Hyderabad and we would 
be able to work through it and cooperate with the government in 
its efforts to develop the undeveloped region. Since our niece 
Leela, daughter of my brother Narayana Rao, had settled down 
in Hyderabad after her marriage with Sri Madhava Rao Baji of 



the Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation, we 
would be able to stay with them pending the completion of 
construction of our house. Finally, the twin cities of Hyderabad 
and Secunderabad enjoyed a well-deserved reputation for their 
beauty, quietness^ and cultural life. 

During one of our visits to Hyderabad we had been informed 
by the Bajis that some residential plots were available at a very 
reasonable rate for sale in Bagh Amberpet Colony which was 
not very far from their house. The Andhra Mahila Sabha 
institutions ? situated in Vidyanagar were between the Bajis’ 
house and these plots, and within five minutes’ ride from the 
plots. Further, the site was well situated on an elevated slope. 
My mother considered the plots suitable for the possible 
construction of a house by us. We went ahead and bought 
sixteen hundred square yards. We also bought two adjoining 
plots, each of twelve hundred square yards. The cost was only 
seven rupees a square yard. Above all, it was so close to the 
Osmania University that the Engineering College, the projected 
Agricultural College, and the university’s main landscape 
garden were within four hundred yards. 

An idea occurred to me that, as the plots were selling cheap, 
some of the stall members of the Andhra Mahila Sabha institu- 
tions could be encouraged to invest in small plots to build their 
own houses at their convenience. The Andhra Mahila Sabha ac- 
cordingly sanctioned housing loans to half a dozen of the staff 

When word passed around that Chintaman and I had bought 
a plot of land and were going to build a house for settling down 
there, people belonging to various professions like teaching, 
banking, and medicine also bought up the available plots. 

Though all this was encouraging, there was the discouraging 
fact that the area was outside the municipal corporation limits 
and there were no facilities of water, electricity, drainage, and 
roads, not even unmetalled ones. The area had to be developed 
for the provision of these basic amenities. I persuaded all those 



who bought house sites in the area to pay the registration and 
development charges. The amount thus collected by the 
municipal corporation came to about one lakh of rupees. As my 
husband was still the Vice Chancellor of Delhi University we 
were most of the time in Delhi. Leela Baji took charge of the site 
(which was full of thorns and pits), got it cleared and levelled, 
and started to plant trees. She also had got a well dug and 
planted mangoes, cocoanuts, oranges and several varieties of 
flowering trees. Chintaman guided her on the varieties of shrubs 
and flowering trees. 

Within a short time the municipal corporation provided 
electricity and also laid metalled roads and water pipes. The first 
to construct a house there was Dr. D.S. Reddy, the Vice 
Chancellor of Osmania University. His plot was adjoining to 
ours. The second person who constructed a house was a leading 
advocate of the Andhra Pradesh High Court, Sri Manduri 

We started the construction of our own house in 1967, and 
named it ‘Rachana’. It meant ‘construction’ or ‘reconstruction’ 
(it may be recalled that Mahatma Gandhi named his con- 
structive programme as ‘Rachanatmaka Karyakramam’), and 
we felt that it was an apt sequel to our first house in Poona 
which we had named ‘Yojana’ (planning). 

Though ‘Rachana’ was not ready for occupation we 
conducted the formal house-entry ceremony in April 1967, and 
finally moved into the house on 7 June 1967. The person whom 
we sadly missed on the occasion was my mother. She had 
passed away on 7 March 1965 at Madras. 

Though my mother had been apprehensive that our different 
backgrounds might clash, she got over that anxiety very soon 
when she found Chintaman to be warm and affectionate. She 
likened him as her son. Several times I found Chintaman 
relaxing with his head in her lap, and it gladdened me. At lunch 
and dinner time she would sit by his side and check every dish 
that was served. 



My husband’s main occupation for some time was to grow a 
garden in ‘Rachana’. The soil was reddish and hard; it was good 
for house-building, but not so much for raising a garden. 
However, by the time of this writing, Chintaman’s labour has 
borne fruit in raising a beautiful garden with fruit and flowering 
trees, flowering shrubs, and a small lawn bordered by good 
quality roses. We have two lovely mango trees, which have not 
failed to give us about a hundred fruit every year, and also two 
cocoanut trees. Chintaman picked up a number of varieties of 
creepers and flowering shrubs among which I should mention 
the Magnolia from Calcutta and Adenis Obvoza and 
Muscenda collected at Bangkok. 

I was pleasantly surprised when one fine morning the 
Municipal Commissioner called on me to have my permission 
for naming our colony as ‘Durgabai Deshmukh Colony’. He 
told me that the colony now extended from Sivam to Amberpet 
where the road joined Malakpet leading to Vijayawada road. I 
was later told that the Municipal Corporation passed a 
resolution unanimously adopting the name. It was an honour 
which I did not think I deserved. 

Chintaman kept good health and did not suffer from any 
major illness till July 1977. On 25 July he told me at about four 
in the morning, after he had had a sound sleep, that he was 
going to the toilet. He took a long time to return. He told me that 
he had a loose motion and passed no urine. I thought that it was 
strange. I took his temperature. It was 99.6 degrees. X-ray and 
other investigations followed. 

Sunday 7 August 1977 was my sixty-ninth birthday. A 
function had been fixed for that day at the Andhra Mahila 
Sabha at half past five in the evening. Chintaman was to preside, 
and Smt. Sharada Mukherjee, Governor of Andhra Pradesh, 
was to inaugurate the Administrative Block and the Post Office 
of the Andhra Mahila Sabha, constructed at a cost of little over 
one lakh of rupees, and also to release my biography written by 
Smt. Neti Sita Devi in Telugu. The function went off well, and 



Chintaman stood it very well. Further investigations were taken 
up on 8 August. It turned out that he would have to be taken to 
Bombay for diagnoses and possible surgery. 

Eventually, Chintaman had to undergo three major and two 
minor abdominal operations at the Tata Memorial Hospital and 
the Bombay Hospital. The skilful surgeon was Dr. T.P. 

Finding accommodation in Bombay for those of us who went 
from Hyderabad to be with Chintaman during his treatment was 
not easy. I received valuable help from Sri Sadiq Ali, Governor 
of Maharashtra and his wife Shanti. I could well imagine how 
much more difficult, if not impossible, it would be for ordinary 
people, without connections in high places, to bring patients to 
Bombay for treatment. 

As I had to spend the greater part of the day alone during 
Chintaman’s treatment, I began to think about his illness and 
why it had come about, whether it could not have been 
prevented, and so on. I thought that unless I could divert my 
mind from these thoughts, which were full of agony and anxiety, 
my health would break down. Some kind of occupational 
therapy was necessary. I came to the conclusion that I should 
attempt to write a book, Chintaman and I. 

I felt that I should mention this to Chintaman, who was still in 
hospital. I mentioned it to him in September when he had made 
some progress. I told him, ‘Babi, I want to write a book 
“Chintaman and I”. I would like to begin the book with “Can I 
see your Governor?”.’ I was happy that Chintaman could 
understand the context. He welcomed the project. 

X. Private Misfortune Leads to Public 


The birth of voluntary social welfare organisations can in 
many instances be traced to a widening of sympathy caused by 
the misfortune of the near and dear ones. Let me mention some 
cases illustrating how private misfortune has led to public weal, 
before narrating the instance in which Chintaman and I were 
ourselves involved. 

The Iswari Prasad Dattatreya Orthopaedic Centre of the 
Andhra Mahila Sabha in Madras would not have come into 
being but for the misfortune which Lakshmi Parvathi Garu and 
her husband Hanumantha Rao Garu had to face when their 
only child, Iswari Prasad Dattatreya, died as a boy of nine due 
to orthopaedic ailment and mental retardation. Hanumantha 
Rao held a senior position as Secretary of the Transport 
Department of the government of Madras. Although the parents 
spared no effort to save the child they could not succeed- Soon 
after the death of the boy, they came to see me when I was on a 
visit to Madras. They told me, with tears rolling down their 
eyes, that they would like to donate one lakh rupees to the 
Andhra Mahila Sabha Trust Board to enabJLeit to do whatever I 
considered to be most appropriate to pefpetuate me memory of 
their son. I consulted Chintaman ayid my brother Narayana 
Rao. AH the thfee of us felt that it would be best to start a unit m 
the Andhra Mahila Sabha Nursing raome for treating the 
orthopaedically handicapped and menc&Hv retarded children. 



The Hanumantha Rao couple were happy to know this and 
today the Iswari Prasad Dattatreya Orthopaedic Centre of the 
Andhra Mahila Sabha is considered to be one of the leading 
institutions of its kind in the country. The Centre has all 
necessary facilities such as Physiotherapy, Hydrotherapy, a 
well-equipped Operation Theatre, an X-ray Unit, a school for 
the mentally retarded children, a vocational rehabilitation unit, 
and a Brace Workshop. The quality of work done there was of 
such a high order that it qualified soon for financial assistance 
from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare of the 
U.S. government. This enabled the Orthopaedic Centre to admit 
cerebral palsy cases for treatment and to quicken their relief by 
brain surgery. 

Another notable example of private misfortune leading to 
public weal is provided by my friend Smt. Fatima Ismail, a 
leading social worker of Bombay. She started a workshop in 
Bombay for the physically handicapped of all kinds. I visited 
the workshop and was greatly impressed by the training that 
was being given there. It led to the rehabilitation of the physical- 
ly handicapped, who were enabled to earn decent wages. How 
did this institution come into being? One of the daughters of 
Smt. Fatima Ismail had lost the use of her leg. She was taken to 
the U.S.A. for treatment. There was no cure and she had to 
reconcile to her cruel fate. It was this misfortune that led Smt. 
Fatima Ismail to start an institution for the welfare of the 
physically handicapped. 

I know of some people who volunteered to donate their eyes 
to give relief to the blind, as one of their children happened to be 
born blind or had become blind after a small-pox attack. Helen 
Keller was a classic example: she became blind when she was a 
child but derived great satisfaction from serving the whole world 
of the blind. Similar is the origin of the Cardio- Vascular 
(Diagnostic and Therapeutic Service) Unit which is taking shape 
in Hyderabad. 

After Chintaman started to recover from the major surgery in 


Bombay I began to wonder how he developed those tumours in 
the abdomen. This kind of operation for aneurysm and enlarged 
and twisted aorta was not known to lay people like me; even in 
the medical world it was not very familiar. Was it not strange 
that in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad, the 
capital of Andhra Pradesh, with two very big government 
hospitals — the Osmania Hospital and the Gandhi 
Hospital — and a number of private Nursing Homes run by 
eminent physicians and surgeons, an operation of this kind 
could not bS performed, and even investigations could not be 
carried out? I began to feel strongly that people of our type, 
belonging to the middle and upper class category, could 
somehow manage to take the patients to places like Bombay or 
Vellore where facilities existed for the treatment, though costly, 
of such cases. It is not only difficult to get the necessary finance, 
but also a problem to find a place for the relations of the patient 
to live in a city like Bombay. I began to wonder what poor 
people could do if they faced such a situation. They could 
neither afford the expenditure nor have access to the facilities I 
had managed to obtain for Chintaman in Bombay. 

Then I resolved that I ought to work for the establishment of 
a unit for the diagnosis and treatment of such cases in 
Hyderabad. I could not sleep until I shared my thoughts with 
Chintaman. Meanwhile Dr. T.P. Kulkarni informed me that 
Chintaman’s stitches were going to be removed on 5 October. I 
waited till then. Next day I went to see him in the morning and 
found only a nurse attending on him. Chintaman could 
appreciate what I said, and when I told him that I had decided to 
donate twenty-five thousand rupees from our personal savings 
as the nucleus of a fund for the benefit of those who could not 
afford to go from Hyderabad and its neighbourhood to Bombay 
or Vellore for cardio-vascular treatment, Chintaman smiled and 
said, ‘You can go ahead with your plan. It is a very good thing.’ 
This encouragement gave me the required strength and my 
determination was sharpened and deepened. 



I also told Chintaman that I shall will away our house 
‘Rachana' to a public cause, particularly for medical education, 
medical training, and action oriented medical research. The 
house together with land it stands on is worth at present about 
three-and-half lakh rupees. This will was registered and read out 
at a public function when the Intensive Coronary Care Unit 
(ICCU) was inaugurated by Sri H.M. Patel, when he was 
Finance Minister of India. 

Within the next two days some of our relations, afew doctors, 
and my brother-in-law Dr. Madhukar Deshmukh came to know 
of the decision and warmly welcomed it. We left Bombay for 
Hyderabad on 10 October accompanied by Dr. T.P. Kulkarni 
and Dr. Madhukar. I started to plan for the cardio-vascular unit 
in Hyderabad from then onwards. 

I requested Dr. Kulkarni to be the Honorary Consultant and 
Adviser of the Unit if and when it was established in Hyderabad. 
I also told him that I would approach some voluntary 
organisations and foundations, both in India and abroad, which 
would appreciate the cause and encourage us with some 
financial assistance. Dr. Kulkarni welcomed the idea and 
agreed to let me have a blueprint of the set-up, including the 
financial outlay. 

I began to enlist the support both of local doctors and other 
potential helpers, and of foreign well-wishers of India, in my 
project. Soon after our return. Dr. Robert E. Goheen, U.S. 
Ambassador in India, wrote to us to say that he was visiting 
Hyderabad shortly and that he was anxious to meet us. His trip 
to Hyderabad was in connection with the handing over of a 
‘Ready to Eat’ food factory to the government of Andhra 
Pradesh. Chintaman and I were happy about the forthcoming 
reunion as we had met Dr. Goheen and his wife in America in 
1962 when Princeton University, of which Dr. Goheen was then 
President, conferred an honorary Doctorate on Chintaman. 

Dr. Goheen was born in Venkurla, small town in the Ratnagiri 
district of Maharashtra. His father was amissionary doctor. He 


had established a clinic in Venkurla which has now grown into a 
full-fledged hospital serving several villages around. When Dr. 
Goheen and his wife visited India later, they were our guests at 
the India International Centre. We suggested that they make a 
trip to Venkurla, as the people there would be happy to receive 
them. They did go to Venkurla and we were pleased to hear 
from him that Mrs. Goheen was received with all the ceremony 
that is accorded to an Indian bride when she comes to the 
mother-in-law’s place: breaking of the cocoanut and the present 
of a silk saree, blouse, fruits, and flowers. Dr. Goheen said it was 
an unforgettable experience for him and for his wife. 

When Dr. Goheen visited Hyderabad towards the close of 
1977, he went round the College campus and the Nursing Home 
campus of the Andhra Mahila Sabha and I explained to him 
about my cardio-vascular unit project. He asked me to send him 
the blueprint of the unit when it was received from Dr. Kulkarni. 

Another development was Dr. C. Gopalan’s visit to 
Hyderabad in connection with an international seminar on 
‘Child Food’. Dr. Gopalan is now Director-General of the 
Indian Council for Medical Research at Delhi. We had come to 
know Dr. Gopalan when he was in Hyderabad as Director of 
the Nutrition Research Laboratory which is now called the 
National Institute of Nutrition. Though I wanted to talk to Dr. 
Gopalan in person about our project, I only got him on the 
telephone as he was very busy with the seminar. I mentioned it 
to him on the telephone and he not only expressed his 
appreciation of the steps I had taken but also said that the 
I.C.M.R. would be interested in this kind of project. The 
I.C.M.R. supported research projects and there were guidelines 
in regard to them, but he thought that the definition of research 
could be stretched to give financial assistance for travel and a 
fellowship for training in cardio-vascular diagnostics and 
surgery in Bombay. 

I started to write to others who would be inferested in hel 
ping this project. I wrote first to John Rockefelle. HI, enclosing 



a copy of my scheme and detailing the circumstances which led 
to my decision, narrating Chintaman’s illness, operation, and the 
treatment in Bombay. I wrote also to Dr. Douglas Ensminger 
whom Chintaman and I knew intimately when he was 
Representative of the Ford Foundation in India. Chintaman and 
he used to meet almost every week since the Ford Foundation 
office happened to be next door to the India International 
Centre. Indeed, the plaza of the India International Centre was a 
joint project of the Centre and the Ford Foundation, and was 
dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Dr. 
Ensminger was a very dynamic person who was closely 
connected with the working of India’s Planning Commission 
and also of several projects funded by the Ford Foundation. 

I also got in touch with friends in Delhi to find out the 
procedures in the Ministry of Health for securing a grant for 
equipment. I came to know that the size of the grant from the 
Centre could be up to one lakh of rupees for the purchase of 
equipment needed for the Unit. I wanted to find out the position 
regarding the availability of equipment, and telephoned Sri 
Vijayakar who was the Acting General Manager of the 
Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) at Hyderabad. 
A few days later Sri Balaji rang me up from ECIL and said that 
he had been asked to go to the Mahila Sabha premises to find 
out what exactly were the facilities existing there from the point 
of view of accommodation, equipment, operation theatre, etc. 
Sri Balaji spent a couple of hours surveying the existing facilities 
and the requirements of the project. From my talks with Sri 
Vijayakar and Sri Balaji I got the idea that the equipment would 
cost about three lakh rupees. I added another two lakh to the 
estimate, towards the construction of five rooms by way of 
addition to the existing facilities: one each for operation theatre, 
intensive care room, air-conditioned upkeep of the equipment, 
the doctor, and the para-medical staff such as nurses on duty. 

Reproduced below are extracts from an appeal I prepared in 
November 1977 for financial assistance for the establishment of 


the Unit: 

‘The Andhra Mahila Sabha has completed forty years of 
useful service in the field of social welfare. During this period, 
the Sabha has built up many institutions, in both Madras and 
Hyderabad and also in eleven districts of Andhra Pradesh. The 
services organised by the Sabha are in the field of Health, 
Medical Care and Nursing, and Education from Pre-Primary to 
the College level including the Arts and Science College and the 
College of Education. The Sabha has contributed to the cause of 
Adult Education, Literacy including Functional Literacy, and 
Non-Formal Education for Rural Women leading to the stage of 
total Family Welfare. 

‘The Sabha’s properties today are worth about thirteen 
million rupees excluding the land. Seventy-five per cent of this 
has been raised through voluntary donations and the balance 
through grants by the Central and State governments. The 
Sabha today is more proud of its hundreds of dedicated, spirited, 
selfless, and able voluntary workers, both men and women, than 
of its assets in buildings and equipment, valuable though they 
are. It is these workers who have helped the Sabha to render 
more and more service to the needy and the suffering. 

‘The Mahila Sabha has a Board of Trustees numbering 
twenty consisting of eminent men and women like Dr. 
Chintaman Deshmukh, Sri P.V. Raghava Rao, Justice A. 
Gangadhara Rao, Sri M. Bapiraju, senior advocate of the 
Supreme Court, Sri M. Anandam, auditor and M.P., Sri B.V.D. 
Narayana Rao, Secretary, Board of Trustees, and Dr. M. 
Natarajan, internationally-known orthopaedic surgeon, with Dr. 
(SmL) Durgabai Deshmukh, Founder-President of the Andhra 
Mahila Sabha, as the President of the Board of Trustees. The 
Trust Board is directly in charge of policy making, review of the 
activities from year to year, and also the finances of the Sabha. 

‘The Sabha is now launching upon a major project which is 
much needed in the medical field, namely the establishment of a 
Qardio-Vascular (Diagnostic and Therapeutic Service) Unit in 



Hyderabad. Dr. Chintaman Deshmukh’s recent illness which 
finally led to his undergoing several operations in Bombay 
hospitals was followed by the Andhra Mahila Sabha with great 
anxiety. Dr. (Smt.) Durgabai Deshmukh felt that it was her duty 
not only as his wife but also as a public worker that she should 
take the initiative in establishing a Cardio-Vascular (Diagnostic 
& Therapeutic Service) Unit in the Andhra Mahila Sabha 
Nursing Home at the earliest possible time. Such facilities for the 
diagnosis, investigation and surgical treatment of cardio- 
vascular ailments are not available in adequate measure in 
Hyderabad, and it will be very useful to establish such facilities 
here to benefit the poor and the needy who cannot afford costly 
treatment for ailments like cancer, heart and kidney trouble, for 
which facilities are now available only in Bombay and in 

‘It is necessary and important to state that though the Andhra 
Mahila Sabha was established in Madras by the Andhras in the 
year 1937, when Madras was the capital city of the composite 
Madras Presidency, in its working the Mahila Sabha has thrown 
open all its services — medical, public health, educational, and 
welfare — to men, women, and children belonging to all castes, 
all communities, and all language-speaking groups. Even after 
Andhra was formed in the early 1950’s the Andhra Mahila 
Sabha at Madras continues to serve all sections of the 

‘This appeal is addressed to public-spirited men and women 
for their consideration and generous financial assistance. 

Things have started moving encouragingly. It became 
possible to inaugurate an Intensive Cardiac Care Unit on 16 
May 1979 as the first step towards a full-fledged Cardio- 
Vascular (Diagnostic & Therapeutic) Unit. 

XI. The World of Books 

Many of chintaman’s poems written in Sanskrit would not 
have been preserved but for a little care that I took. I used to 
find in his pockets almost every day on his return from 
Parliament House a number of small paper balls. One day I 
noticed a piece of paper on which a beautiful Sanskrit verse was 
written. He wrote these verses while listening to speeches by 
members. Earlier the little paper balls used to be thrown away. I 
took him to task one day and imposed some kind of home 
work — writing out these pieces of poetry neatly in an exercise 
book. They got copied at the rate of about five per day. We find 
them in print today in a collection of his Sanskrit poems, 
Sanskrit Kavya Malika, published by Motilal Banarasidas and 
Sons, Delhi. 

Chintaman would compose verses in Hindi too while listening 
to debates in Parliament. One of his Hindi poems prepared on 
the spot was recited as a part of a speech as Union Finance 
Minister. It was in reply to a point made by Maithili Saran 
Gupta, the renowned Hindi poet, and the House burst into 
laughter. The subject-matter was the raising of taxes generally 
and in particular the book-post rate. 

Among the works included in Sanskrit Kavya Malika is 
‘Gandhi Sukti Muktavali’ consisting of one hundred short 
stanzas. Chintaman wrote this mostly during our journeys by 
plane and by train during 1957. He knew several hundred wise 



sayings of Mahatma Gandhi, out of which he selected one 
hundred and translated them into Sanskrit. 

Some of Chintaman’s Sanskrit verses have been included in 
text-books for High School students in Maharashtra. Some of 
the stanzas from ‘Gandhi Sukti Muktavali’ are recited by the 
High School students of Andhra Mahila Sabha in Hyderabad 
every day and also by students of some other schools in Andhra 

All India Radio has invited Chintaman more than once to 
participate in its annual Kavi Sammelan in Sanskrit at Delhi and 
other stations. Of his Sanskrit poems, one entitled ‘Ravindra 
Vandana’ is perhaps the best known. It was specially written to 
be presented to Rabindranath Tagore when Chintaman, 
accompanied by his friend Professor Mahalanobis, went to pay 
his respects to the poet at Santiniketan in the year 1941. 
Chintaman’s poem was appreciated by the poet, who responded 
by reciting one of his own poems in Bengali, namely ‘Avirbhava’. 
Chintaman translated ‘Vasavadatta’ and other poems of Tagore 
from Bengali into Marathi. Besides this and his translation of 
Kalidasa’s Meghdoot , Chintaman has also written originally in 
Marathi. The poem on ‘Krishnaraj Sagar’ is outstanding for its 
delicate imagination. The verse was translated into Kannada by 
Dr. Puttappa, who was then Vice Chancellor of Mysore 
University. It was also translated into Telugu by Sri B. 
Rajanikanta Rao, who now heads the Kalakshetra centre at 
Tirupati; he also set it to a beautiful tune. It was later adopted 
by several institutions, among them the Andhra Mahila Sabha in 
Madras which produced a beautiful dance-drama based on it 
and staged it at a cultural function. 

Chintaman does not claim to be a creative writer in English, 
but he employs the language with great felicity. During his 
career as a general administrator he had occasion to write many 
reports. One, on the ‘Resettlement of the Raipur District 
(Khalsa)’, published in 1931, is regarded as a classic of its kind. 
However, it was only after he became Governor of the Reserve 



Bank of India that he had opportunities of turning out writings 
of more than a transient interest. He was Chairman of the 
committee appointed by the Reserve Bank of India to prepare 
the Bank’s history for the years 1935-51. As Chairman of the 
University Grants Commission, Chintaman delivered numerous 
lectures, which were subsequently compiled into two volumes. 
In the Portals of the Indian Universities and On the Threshold 
of India’s Citizenhood. To the same genre belongs another book 
Aspects of Development and Reflections on Finance, Education 
and Society. A book entitled Economic Development in India: 
1946-56 is a valuable contribution to the economic history of 
India, being the compilation of a series of Dadabhoy Nowrojee 
Memorial Lectures. There are volumes which bring together 
Chintaman’s lectures at universities and other learned bodies, of 
which two call for special attention: one comprises a two-part 
lecture delivered in Washington under the auspices of the Per 
Jacobson Foundation entitled The Usefulness of Monetary 
Means in Curbing Inflation and the other is on Hindi or 
Hindustani - Official Language or Lingua Franca of India, a 
lecture delivered under the auspices of the Gandhi Memorial 
Foundation, Bombay. Also worthy of mention is the lecture on 
‘The Commonwealth as India Sees it’, delivered in the Smuts 
Memorial Lecture series at Cambridge University on 31 May 
1963. In view of his vast administrative experience, Chintaman 
was made Chairman of the Administrative Reforms 
Commission’s Study Group on ‘Business of Government and its 
Procedure’, and prepared a report on the subject. 

Of all Chintaman’s writings in English the most important, of 
course, is his autobiography entitled The Course of My Life. 
This was published in 1974 by Orient Longman. A translation 
of this book in Marathi has been brought out. 

Chintaman’s recent writings are Studies on Bhagavadgita, 
Buddha’s Dhammapada, and Ashoka’s Edicts. They were 
published serially by the Andhra Mahila Sabha in its monthly 
Vijaya Durga and later published in book form. In the first. 



Chintaman has tried to present the Bhagavadgita for the com- 
mon man’s understanding rather than in abstruse philosophical 
and metaphysical terms. 

Of Chintaman’s writings awaiting publication, mention must 
be made of Gems from the Amarakosh, a somewhat unique at- 
tempt to bring out the essence of the famous Sanskrit lexicon. 
One of the features of this work is that it gives the Latin 
equivalents for the Sanskrit names of trees, shrubs, and the birds 
known at the time of Amarasimha, the author of Amarakosh, 
who is believed to have lived around the year 1 IOC A.D. 

As for me, I am no trained writer. I did write some short 
stories in my young age which were published by Telugu 
magazines such as Sharada, Bharathi, Gruhalakshmi, and 
Andhra Mahila. I also translated some interesting short stories 
of the noted novelist Prem Chand from Hindi into Telugu. 

For nearly three decades thereafter I had occasion only to 
present papers and contribute articles. Among them were an 
address on Education of Girls and Women at the University of 
Calcutta (1962); a paper on Freedom from Hunger Campaign 
of the Indian National Committee (1962); ‘Social Work is Both 
a Science and Art’, an article contributed to the Social Welfare 
of August 1962 at the time of the laying of the foundation-stone 
of the Delhi School of Social Work; and a paper on Education 
and Training in Nutrition, for the World Food Congress in 
Washington (1963). I also contributed an article on ‘Two 
Decades of Development and Welfare in Indian Villages’ to the 
Souvenir brought out on the eve of the 7 1st session of the Indian 
National Congress held in Hyderabad in 1968. 

In addition to this I had the opportunity of getting an 
invitation from the Duke of Edinburgh to write an article on the 
subject ‘New Dimensions of Women’s Life’ which I did, and it 
was published in two volumes by the British Press under the 
series of ‘The Duke of Edinburgh Lectures’. I have also been 
asked by the Planning Commission to bring out the 
Encyclopaedia of Social Work in India in three volumes and 



they appointed me as the Chairman of the Editorial Board. I 
completed these three volumes which contained one thousand 
pages and were released by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru at a 
function held in Delhi. Panditji had also written a ‘Foreword’ to 
these volumes. Soon after I joined the Planning Commission the 
first thing I undertook was to bring out a book entitled Social 
Welfare in India which consisted of seven hundred pages. I also 
brought out a book on Social Legislation and its Role in Social 
Welfare. Another book brought out by me was Plans and 
Prospects of Social Welfare in India for a Decade. Social 
Welfare in India became almost a reference book to both social 
administrators and social legislators both in India and abroad. I 
also delivered two lectures on ‘Social and Economic 
Development in Developing Countries’ in Bangkok at the Asian 
Institute of Economic Development and Planning at the request 
of its Director Dr. P.S. Narayana Prasad. These two lectures 
were printed by that institution and they were taken over by the 
United Nations for incorporation in the Social Year Book. 

It was not till I fell ill in 1974 that I attempted writing a book. 
The Stone that Speaketh was started while I was convalescing 
after a serious illness for which I was treated at the All India In- 
stitute of Medical Sciences in Delhi. I thought it would be an ap- 
propriate occupational therapy for me to divert my mind from 
miserable thinking about myself and my illness by engaging 
myself in writing something useful. (Both Chintaman’s 
autobiography. The Course of My Life , and my The Stone that 
Speaketh were released at a function held at Hyderabad on 14 
January 1978, the eighty-third birthday of Chintaman. 

The present work I started under the same circumstances of 
illness, but this time it was Chintaman’s illness in 1977. He spent 
nearly seven weeks in Bombay — a week in Tata Memorial 
Hospital and the balance in Bombay Hospital. I was staying 
with my brother-in-law, Sri Shantaram Deshmukh, in the 
Reserve Bank flat near Sachivalaya. Except the time I spent with 
Chintaman (an hour in the morning from nine to ten and an 



hour in the evening from five to six in Bombay Hospital), the 
rest of the time I was at home. My mind was completely 
engaged about his illness. There were occasions when I felt that 
my own health was breaking down. The only prayer that I had 
was I should keep well so that my illness did not cause worry to 
him. The problem before me was how to engage my mind, 
because mental health is vital for a person’s well-being. I made 
the decision to start writing Chintaman and I on the eve of the 
silver jubilee of our partnership in life. 

Another book which I plan to write is on '••‘Unknown 
Soldiers — The Women Freedom Fighters of Andhra Pradesh’. 
It is within my personal knowledge that nearly one thousand 
women from Andhra Pradesh, young and old, illiterate, half- 
educated, and fully educated, jumped into the field during the 
freedom struggle and faced imprisonment, lathi charge, and even 
firing. Most of them were from rural areas. Some of them went 
to jail at a time when they were expecting babies. Most of these 
women were put into C class prisons where fifty to sixty were 
kept in a room and had the use of only one bathroom. I do not 
find many of these heroines living now. I wonder if even a few 
sentences were written about them while they were alive and 
fighting the battle for the freedom of the country. About one 
hundred of these sisters, after they were released, got themselves 
absorbed in the constructive work suggested by Mahatma 
Gandhi. Several famous social and educational institutions came 
to be established as a result of their efforts. 

Since the services of these great women have not been 
brought out in any publication, I feel that I would be failing in 
my duty if I do not try to write about them and draw the atten- 
tion of today’s young people to the heroic part played by these 
women in securing the freedom for India. 

Smt. Neti Sita Devi, an enthusiastic young colleague, 
approached me in 1974 to be allowed to write my biography in 
Telugu. I did not even reply to her letters for nearly a year. 
Ultimately I gave my consent after my husband convinced me 



that I would be doing a wrong thing in refusing to agree, as he 
had found that women would be painstaking and sincere in un- 
dertaking such work. Smt. Neti Sita Devi succeeded in produc- 
ing Durgabai Deshmukh Jeevitha Charithra. It was released on 
my sixty-ninth birthday (7 August 1977) by Smt. Sharada 
Mukherjee, Governor of Andhra Pradesh, at a function over 
which Chintaman presided. 

XII. Summing Up 

By the TiMEChintaman and I married in January 1953, we had 
acquired plenty of experience of men and matters. We had both 
already developed a set of values to guide our lives. 

From my girlhood I have had the habit of introspection. It 
continues even today. I spend some time at night before I go to 
bed, or when I am alone, thinking of what I did during the day. 
If I made a mistake, I analyse why I made it. If I shouted at 
somebody in anger, I try to find out why I could not keep my 
composure. This introspection is in my view a good thing: it 
helps us to correct the mistakes we might have committed and to 
get to the right path. I regard my conscience as my Guru. 

I found that Chintaman was also cast in the same mould. We 
consider that the time spent in schools and colleges for acquiring 
formal education does less good than the education we acquire 
by the process of thinking and self-questioning. The knowledge 
that we cull from our experience of men and matters is of greater 
importance than what we acquire from reading books, even the 
Vedas and the Puranas. 

Both of us have come to believe in certain fundamental 
guidelines to govern our behaviour and attitude towards men 
and matters. We believe in the doctrine of detachment and 
dispensability. We do not believe that we are indispensable for 
any institution or office, or that the institutions which we have 
started or developed have done well only because of us. It is a 



matter of pride for us to say that the institutions progressed 
more because of the workers whom we trained and placed in the 
right positions. Therefore the question of these institutions 
languishing in our absence does not arise. If there were the right 
kind of people and workers in position, they saw to it that the 
work started by us continued and prospered. So in whatever 
capacity we worked, we made it the first point to select the right 
workers and train them, and that too in large numbers. No tree, 
big or small, can flourish under a banyan that shuts out 
exposure to sunlight and therefore the possibility of growth. 

It is not that I do not feel attached to the institutions which I 
have nurtured. But I am convinced that the feeling of 
detachment towards an institution proves to be good for it and 
indeed strengthens it. When the Andhra Mahila Sabha 
completed its own buildings in Madras, I do not know why but I 
became detached, or less attached to it. I remember that I used 
to go to the Sabha premises and sit on one of the cement 
benches provided outside for visitors. I did not feel like going 
into the Sabha buildings except when there was a meeting or a 
function. I felt that I had done my part, and it was for the 
younger generation to build up the Sabha’s institutions. 

I firmly believe that millions and billions of rupees cannot 
create what sincere, honest, and devoted workers can. Millions 
and billions come running after a devoted worker. That is why 1 
believe that dedicated workers are the backbone of an institution 
or a country. 

Chintaman also has this attitude. As long as he held an office, 
he kept himself absorbed in developing every side of the work in 
hand. But even as he went on working for the development of 
the institution, he would detach himself from it and train 
younger people for responsibilities - whether he was Governor 
of the Reserve Bank or Finance Minister or Chairman of the 
Board of Governors of the Administrative Staff College. He had 
the knack of finding out suitable persons and assigning the right 
man to the right job. 



The other principle which we have followed is that of simple 
living and high thinking. Both of us have been persons of simple 
habits. I can hardly recall any occasion when we spent time on 
thinking of our career prospects. The fact is that offices came in 
search of us. For instance, on the eve of independence, in 1 946, 
the Viceroy, Lord Wavell, asked Chintaman to join his 
Executive Council. Chintaman declined the invitation as he felt 
that he was not cut out for political life. I have narrated earlier 
how he declined to have his name considered, when the U.K. 
and the U.S.A. were prepared to back him for Tbe post of 
Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, since 
he preferred to work in and for India. 

I never imagined that I would be offered membership of the 
Planning Commission, or chairmanship of the Central Social 
Welfare Board. When, however, offices that we considered 
worthwhile came our way, we tried to do our very best. We 
knew well that the important thing is not coming to occupy a 
particular office but how you go out of office with your 
reputation unsullied. 

In the same way Chintaman never expected that he would be 
given a Ramon Magsaysay Award for excellence in government 

In the same way I never expected that I would be given 
Paul G. Hoffman Award for bringing about social change in In- 
dia leading to economic development. But it was a pleasant sur- 
prise when I was told that I was selected for this Award out of 
forty-six countries. In the same way I was surprised when I was 
informed that I was awarded UNESCO World Peace Medal for 
my work in spreading literacy. 

Our experience tells us that it is a good thing to say little and 
do a great deal. We spent comparatively little time in talking. It 
is not talk about planning but completion of a project or the 
achievement of an objective within the stipulated time that 
counts. We have therefore tried to talk less and do more. Long 
speeches and promises may please people initially, but a time is 



bound to come when people treated only to speeches will lose 
their faith if results do not follow. 

Chintaman and I cultivated the habit of plain speaking. We 
never said anything, as far as I can recall, merely to please 
people. Even though plain speaking was bitter, we did not mind 
it. If you have to call a spade a spade you should be prepared to 
do so, unmindful of its repercussions. I cannot say that this was 
always liked by all, but we thought that it was better to be bitter 
than to be jnsincere and pleasant. 

We also believe strongly that it is good to do a good deed at 
the earliest possible time and not defer it. Life is uncertain and 
the life-span is limited. Why, then, wait to do a good thing? If 
you feel like doing something good day after tomorrow, do it 
tomorrow; and if you feel the impulse to do a good deed 
tomorrow, do it today. 

I have heard some people say that they had done so many 
good turns to ‘X’ and ‘Y’ and that the latter have forgotten them 
and do not remember their benefactor. Chintaman and I did not 
like this attitude. We feel that it is wise to forget the good you 
might have done to others. Why expect others to remember or 
return the help you gave them? Did you expect a reward from 
them when you helped them? It is like going to the temple and 
offering a cocoanut because God has fulfilled your prayer. This 
just means that you think of God only when you expect him to 
help you. Would it not be better to go to the temple and worship 
God for the gift of the good earth, and for the gift of plant and 
animal life? It is a pity that many of us teach our children to go 
to the temple and pray to God on the eve of examinations. 
Children should rather be taught that success in examinations 
depends on their studies and hard work rather than on prayer to 
the gods. 

Chintaman and I noticed on many occasions and in various 
situations that it is much easier for a person to deal with enemies 
outside rather than to deal with one’s inner enemies, namely 
kama (pursuit of pleasure), krodha (anger), lobha (greed), moha 



(attachment), and matsarya (arrogance). 

I am afraid of remaining inactive, because I know that when 
one has nothing to think of, many bad ideas surround one and 
dance in one’s idle mind. Is not an idle mind the devil’s 
workshop? When I mentioned this to my husband, he said that 
it was certainly very desirable to keep the mind occupied with 
good thoughts .and good deeds, but some kind of relaxation was 
also necessary for one’s brain; nature’s law required one to take 
occasional rest since mental fatigue causes inefficiency. 

Tolerance is a virtue that has always appealed to me. I 
admired the concept of Din-E-Ilahi propounded by the great 
Mughal Emperor Akbar who provided a common platform on 
which diverse people could come together for propagating the 
ideals of equality before God and law irrespective of religion, 
caste, creed, language, colour, and sex. The Panch Sheel 
outlined by Pandit Nehru was close to these principles. 
Chintaman believes with me that Din-E-Ilahi and Panch Sheel 
are doctrines that are good for humanity. 

We felt that the services of one of us must be given free to the 
nation while the other partner earned. I am happy that we could 
adhere to this code of conduct over the past twenty-five years. 

Whatever we have done individually or jointly for the nation, 
we consider it as only a drop in the ocean, considering the 
dimensions of the problems of poverty, hunger, unemployment, 
illiteracy, ill-health, and superstition. 

Adjustment and compromise are necessary in human 
relations. But for our own part we have had little or no need for 
resorting to them. We have assimilated ourselves into each other 
in spirit and become an integrated whole. Quite a few friends of 
ours had wondered, when we married, how Durgabai the rustic 
and the stylish and handsome Chintaman would get on. They 
also knew that I, a Brahmin and a strict vegetarian, did not even 
use eggs in my diet, while Chintaman was a non-vegetarian. The 
reader knows how these supposed problems evaporated. 

When we find ourselves alone and look back on our lives. 



Chintaman and I feel happy and contented that we have lived a 
life which has been satisfying to ourselves and of some service to 
the community. We have tried to live according to certain 
principles which we value, and life has given us ample rewards.